March 21st, 2012
12:52 PM ET

Florida shooting: What we know about Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman

The death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen who was shot while walking in his neighborhood in Sanford, Florida, has sparked allegations of racial profiling and calls for the gunman to be charged.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI will investigate the incident. George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who has acknowledged shooting Martin, has not been charged and says it was self-defense. The incident has sparked widespread debate about Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law as well as numerous protests in Martin's honor.

As the story continues to grip the nation, here's what is we know about the key people in this story and why both families believe their sons have become victims.

Trayvon Martin and his family

Trayvon Martin, 17, was killed after he went to the store for candy and a soft drink.  In the wake of his death, his parents have sought to make sure the world does not forget their son, and they have asked for justice to be served by calling for Zimmerman's arrest.

"He was into sports. He loved playing football. He loved watching football. He loved basketball," his mother, Sybrina Fulton, told CNN. "He loved to eat everything in your house. He loved music. He loved kids. He loved to babysit and wash cars and (was) just a normal kid."

Brian Paz, Martin's friend, told CNN affiliate WFTV that he will miss having Trayvon around.

"He was a happy, smart person," Paz said. "He was joyful."

Paz told WFTV that his friend was a peaceful kid. And that is why he finds it so confusing that Zimmerman thought he was threatening when he noticed him walking in the neighborhood and began to follow him.

"He's a peaceful person," Paz said. "He was actually really quiet when he didn't know a person, so I wouldn't describe him as threatening."

There's not one thing in particular Paz said he will miss about his friend - it is everything.

"Chilling with him every weekend, just having him around me," he said. "That's what I'm going to miss about him."

Trayvon's parents say the whole incident has been devastating.

"The whole world sees this is a tragedy," Tracy Martin, the boy's father, told CNN. "It's sad as a father to have to bury your child. As a parent, you never want to imagine about burying your kids, and for me to have to bury my son is sad."

And they hope they will find justice soon. Their cries for an arrest sparked a social media movement to try to draw attention to the case.

"I'm so very hurt, but this whole situation is a nightmare, and I don't understand why this man has not been arrested - ­ at least charged - and let a judge and jury decide if he is guilty," his mother said at a press conference.

Trayvon's family said they believe race was a factor in his death, fueling an outcry in the racially mixed community 16 miles northeast of Orlando.

"If Trayvon had did the shooting, he would've been arrested," his father said. "He would've been arrested on the spot."

George Zimmerman

Not much is known about the man at the helm of the neighborhood watch group and at the center of the shooting controversy. Zimmerman has remained quiet as the story has reached critical mass.

Zimmerman, 28, saw Trayvon in his neighborhood and called 911 to report a suspicious man, authorities said.

"Something's wrong with him. Yep. He's coming to check me out," Zimmerman told a police dispatcher in a 911 call released Monday. "He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is. Send officers over here."

The teen started to run, Zimmerman reported. When he said he was following, the dispatcher told him, "We don't need you to do that."

Shortly afterward, neighbors began calling 911 to report a fight, then a gunshot. By the time police arrived, Trayvon was dead. Zimmerman insisted that he was acting in self-defense when he shot the teen.

In a police report, Officer Timothy Smith said Zimmerman stated he was "yelling for someone to help me," but the victim's family said it was the teen asking for help.

The death has sparked allegations that Zimmerman took Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law too far by chasing after the teen. Police added that while it was suggested Zimmerman not chase him, it is "not a lawful order that Mr. Zimmerman would be required to follow."

"Mr. Zimmerman was not acting outside the legal boundaries of Florida Statute by carrying his weapon when this incident occurred," Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said in a newly released statement about the investigation. "He was in fact on a personal errand in his vehicle when he observed Mr. Martin in the community and called the Sanford Police Department."

Lee added that Zimmerman had a permit for the weapon he was carrying.

Zimmerman had called police several times in the past few years to describe similar circumstances in which he believed someone in the area might be up to no good. When he called police on the night of the shooting, he said there had been a history of break-ins in the area.

Zimmerman's family has denied allegations that race played a role in the shooting, saying he has many minority relatives and friends. In a statement to the Orlando Sentinel, his father said Zimmerman grew up in a multiracial family. A police report describes him as a white male, but his family says he is Hispanic. CNN has made numerous attempts to contact Zimmerman but has been unsuccessful.

The 28-year-old is currently enrolled as a part-time student at Seminole State College, according to Jay Davis, the director of communications and media relations at Seminole State. Davis said records indicate Zimmerman was a general education student pursuing a two-year associate's degree.

Zimmerman has moved out of his home after receiving death threats, according to his father's statement to the Orlando Sentinel.

“The tragic events of February 26 are very sad for all concerned. The Martin family, our family and the entire community have been forever changed," Robert Zimmerman said.

He also strongly disputed the characterization of his son following the incident.

"The portrayal of George Zimmerman in the media, as well as the series of events that led to the tragic shooting, are false and extremely misleading. Unfortunately, some individuals and organizations have used this tragedy to further their own causes and agendas," his father said in the letter to the newspaper. "George is a Spanish-speaking minority with many black family members and friends. He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever. One black neighbor recently interviewed said she knew everything in the media was untrue and that she would trust George with her life.

"Another black neighbor said that George was the only one, black or white, who came and welcomed her to the community, offering any assistance he could provide. Recently, I met two black children George invited to a social event. I asked where they met George. They responded that he was their mentor. They said George visited them routinely, took them places, helped them, and taught them things and that they really loved George. The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth."

Frank Taaffe, a neighbor and friend of Zimmerman, told HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell that his friend was only inquiring about why Martin was in the area, considering there had been documented incidents involving young black men in the neighborhood committing crimes. But he insisted that in no way did Zimmerman target Martin.

‚ÄúZimmerman is not a racist," he told Velez-Mitchell. "George Zimmerman is a caring man.‚ÄĚ

Robert Zimmerman also added that in no way did his son confront Martin and he hopes soon that everyone will be outraged by how his son has been treated. He said he and the family will have no further statements.

soundoff (446 Responses)
  1. Nina

    His father says Zimmerman didn't confront Martin. Phone calls to 911 say otherwise. And where is Zimmerman now? Why does he continue to hide and not come out and tell his side of the story? Even through a lawyer...

    Where IS HE?!!

    March 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sanfirdresident

    Martine lived 240 miles away in Miami Gardens with his dad, Miami Gardens is the highest crime area in south florida. He was shipped to his Dad's girlfriends house 240 miles away where he attempted to beat a neighborhood watch member after cutting through a side enterence to a gate community by passing security.
    Where is the naawp?

    March 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • skpfrmdc

      ......paste your child's photo over treveon's face and tell me how you'd feel.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Donald

    All u people who believe Mr. Zimmerman was right in killing the young boy , are saying that if it was your child he still would be right?
    1) Mr. Zimmerman was told by the 911 operator not to get out of his truck, and he did leave his truck.
    2) He was told too stop following him and he did'nt stop following the child.
    3) Witnesses say the child was the one hollering for help. and he had the kid on the ground with the kids face on the ground, and Mr. Zimmerman on his back(the kids back)

    He was not suppose to get out of his truck, and if he had done what he was suppose to do(not to out of the truck)
    the kid would still be alive.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      Let's get the so-called known facts straight. The 911 operator did not tell Zimmerman to not get out of the car. All the operator said was that there was no need to follow. No need is not a "police order" it was a suggestion for his own safety. None of the 911 callers saw the shooting or much of anything else before the shhoting. After the shooting they saw Zimmerman standing or bent over the Trayvon and the boy dead on the ground – why would that be odd or prove anything? It appears Trayvon's aunt did not even live in that gated community with restircted access – what was Trayvon doing there in the 1st place? To his family and friends Trayson was an angel – what is his real story? It helps to let the investigation be completed and the facts/evidence be collected/realeased. This "trial by opinion" does no one any good.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • meemee

      Read the above article there, judge.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PR

    Zimmerman is a MURDERER! Try him and execute him the way he executed Trayvon.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • viki

      I agree, the man is a murderer. and let's be real, had it been a white or hispanic child shot by a black man, the arrest would already have been made.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sharon in California

    My personal opinion ; I think the shooter was acting as a vigilante, trigger-happy & hyped up @ the thought of shooting someone. This young man's 100% TRAGIC death totally unwarranted. The shooter should be held accountable. I believe we should be able to protect ourselves, but this was an act of perpetuated violence. On another hand, I am tired of the "race card" being blamed time & time again. I think this would have happened, had any race met up with the shooter, or those like him with his type of mentality. My heartfelt prayers go out to the victim's loved ones. What a sad & utterly senseless crime against a youngster ... ūüôĀ

    March 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Thomas

    So if someone n Florida don,t like you they can shot and kill you, tell police it was self defense, and they can go free. Even when a cop shot someone, they have to turn in the gun.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeula

    CNN along with the police are tying to do all they can to keep Zimmerman from going to jail. Why aren't they pointing the contradiction between George Zimmerman's father and the 911 call? He admitted he was following Trayon, however George's father said that wasn't the case.

    I am more than certain if that had been the other way around CNN would have pointed out the contradiction. If it was self defense why does George lie and say he was the one screaming for help why couldn't he tell the truth? He knows he wasn't the one screaming for help. Trayvon's mother knows her own son's voice. Why would Zimmerman be the one screaming for help? He had the gun, couldn't he have run off? Thanks to News shows like CNN, the police and Zimmerman’s lies I don't feel that Trayvon will ever receive justice,

    I do know without a doubt, if it had been Trayvon to kill Zimmerman he would be in jail right now while the so-called investigation was taking place. I know those very cops would not be so quick to defend Trayvon. I don't care how many blacks friends, or family members Zimmerman has,he's nothing more than a racist. He targeted Trayvon because of his skin color.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Me

    Given the lynch mob mentality publicly surrounding this case, would YOU reveal your whereabouts? Just saying. And presumably Mr. Zimmerman has legal counsel who is advising him not to speak out publicly at the present time.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • skpfrmdc

      ..... a situation Mr.Zimmerman created. Damn right he'd better hide or somebody might consider him a threat.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rita Lind

    Race? I don't think this has anything to do with race...Zimmerman committed MURDER. And it doesn't matter if Zimmerman is Hispanic, white, Asian or any other race and it doesn't matter how many Black folks he knows or what his past may be like...he's still a MURDERER. He took a young, innocent, vibrant life and the American people demand justice!

    March 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mogan

      It does matter when Zimmerman stated on the phone that 'they always get away with it.' Who are the 'they'?

      March 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mary mary

    He was only a neighborhood watch, and only suppose to observe and call police. Why did he take laws into his hands, chase, confront and finally kill. I feel so sad about this innocent boy dying like that. If everyone starts to act like Zimmerman, then nobody will have a chance. Self defense, self defense, self defense. His turn is coming and some other person will claim self defense.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mogan

    Zimmerman will not be charged with homicide. The 'stand your ground' law allows for Zimmerman to use deadly force against someone he feels was a threat. Whether that threat was real or not does not matter according to the law. It is only if a person reasonably feels he or she is in danger. The Justice Department might charge him with depriving the teenager of his civil rights.

    I know that some people are arguing that racism should not be brought in, but when Zimmerman states that they 'always get away with it.' Who are the 'they'? Kids with skittles?

    Don't think Florida is going to change the law. People have short memories and the public will forget this case in about a month.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • meemee

      Maybe because they will have the summertime flash mob robberies and muggings to think about?

      March 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nona

    No one here can justify what that fat loser Zimmerman did. No one unless you are a racist too! I hope justice is served – whether in the court system or not!

    March 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ann

    Quite a few folks on here defending a murderer. If Zimmerman had killed your loved one, would you be signing the same tune? Doubt it.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. meemee

    "A police report describes him as a white male, but his family says he is Hispanic. "

    So now all you posters who have been howling about white men can apologize and learn something.

    Here's something else; police and government often have listed Hispanics as whites. There has been a suggestion lately by the State Department to cease using the term "white" altogether. The effect would be to declare white as a race or ethnic description meaningless and so help bring about the "expected" demographic reality.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rob

    Did anyone else notice that the pictures of Trayvon do not resemble a 17 year old. Why no current picture? Could it depict something other than a wholesome youth? I'm not saying anything about the shooting other than all the facts have yet to come out. I don't think we should be so quick to judge until we know those facts. Clearly the media is swaying public opinion by skewing the facts that they do have.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
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