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.

“Zimmerman is not a racist," he told Velez-Mitchell. "George Zimmerman is a caring man.”

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. cindy

    he is a racist pig. so what if someone says something nice about him?? the facts speak for themselves. he is a cold blooded murderer.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • stevetundra

      He's a racist pig? Did you read the article above. He has black friends, etc. Hello!!!!!

      March 22, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. STLgirl

    This stupid flippin law isn't supposed to condone every nutcase who thinks they can play God at any given moment with a gun and then cry self defense. Seriously, one should be greatly concerned that the # of justifiable homicides has tripled in this state since this law was enacted. Fact: It leads to too many incidents like this one.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Where do your stats about justifiable homicides come from?

      March 21, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sergo luis

    That is the same thing Spanish pollices are doing in maimi to the black community in miami fl. the shoot them for nothing.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Idiots-R-Everywhere

    Did you hear the tapes of the boy screaming? This man Zimmerman had the nerve to say it was him screaming....OK so you have a loaded handgun in your hand and your screaming for your life like a young boy? WRONG....The boy is screaming for his life because you are attacking him and armed with a handgun. COMMON SENSE. NO DETECTIVE BADGE NEEDED FOR THAT ONE!!

    March 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. T.Wagner

    I love how everybody jumps on the racist train. People there are kids being killed in the hood every day. But we don't here about those murders because its black on black crime. It just doesn't make exciting news as white on black. Do you really think a police department would let this guy walk if he had committed a crime.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. pmmarion

    I have no doubt that he is not a racist. By the same token I have no doubt the he killed this kid in cold blood.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ajmartinez70

    II know where my vacation dollars won't be going. Just for the fear of looking at someone crossed eyed would allow them to shoot me dead. Is this part of the country an extension of Syria, Afganistan, Iraq, or Libya?

    March 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jesse

    @cally and Robert, you missed my point, again you are rushing to judgement. Was it wrong for him to follow, maybe, I wouldn't have. However during whatever altercation they had (if any) did you ever stop to think he may have had a weapon? I'm sure you're probably saying no he didn't right now, or no just skittles and iced tea. But what if that tea was in a glass container and he broke it and was using it as a weapon? Maybe the police found that glass bottle with Zimmerman's blood all over it. Maybe that's why they believe he was defending himself. Far fetched, maybe, maybe not. I have no idea if that's what happened, nor do any of us we weren't there and we aren't involved in the investigation, he may be super guilty or may be innocent that will be up to the pd , FBI, the prosecutors and possibly a jury, until then none of us have a right to convict the man in our minds. Like I said, innocent until proven guilty

    March 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • marjee123

      Since when do they sell iced tea at a convenience store in a glass jar. And besides he called 911 and was told in on uncertain terms to walk away from the kid and leave him alone. Zimmerman ignored the warning and started to chase him. with the difference in their size I don't understand why Zimmerman, especially having a gun could have ever thought the kid was threatening. He wanted to be a police officer but was turned down. So he thought he could "police" the neighborhood. Which by the way Martin had a right to be in he lived there.

      March 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. m

    This is not a black-white thing...It is a murder so arrest the guy!

    March 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sully

    "The death has sparked allegations that Zimmerman took Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law too far by chasing after the teen. " – Chasing the teen means he absolutely broke this law.

    March 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. visiopher

    BOYCOTT FLORIDA!!!!
    UNTIL
    1. GEORGE ZIMMERMAN IS PROSECUTED.
    2. BILL LEE IS FIRED.
    3. FLORIDA'S "STAND YOUR GROUND" LAW IS REPEALED.

    March 21, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jg

    Racism is not the real issue here as I see it.
    The real issue is that any citizen in Florida and legally have a gun in their hand, use a car to chase a pedestrian, get out of the car, engage the pedestrian in a physical confrontation, and then shoot the pedestrian, who is completely unarmed and RUNNING AWAY....and not be charged with any crime whatsoever.

    Florida has sold its soul to the teabaggers and crazies.

    March 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zalmesana

      As a Florida resident I agree with you. We have sold out to the highest lobbyist for everything from our gun laws to our insurance market. Who ever our Govenor is at the time gets whatever crazy laws passed that lobbyists are willing to pay for. This has become a crazy scary and expensive state to live in. Most of us can't afford to get out of here....

      March 21, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. marjee123

    You didn't tell the whole story about Zimmerman. He was a bully, he had been arrested for assault. He beat up his girl friend numerous times and he had called the police 46 times to report incidental things in the neighborhood. He was a self appointed neighborhood watch person. He had not registered like the lest of the watch people. And CNN left out that the police told him to leave the kid alone. Not to follow him. Martin was a slight 17 year old and Zimmerman was twice his size and almost six feet tall with a gun. So how could Martin be threatening.

    March 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • High Hopes

      @Margarie123

      That's exactly the kind of person who would
      do something like this. A nosy, no-life who has
      nothing better to do than to spy on people...
      making crap up in his mind, including grandiose
      idealation about how important he is in the
      neighborhood and to the police!

      Party's over, hang him high!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. cbwilliams

    This is sad............this child was walking from the store-minding his own business........and suspected as a threat. Zimmerman should have let the police do their job................Zimmerman was advised to "BACK OFF" but he chosed to hunt this child down like an animal...

    March 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DevilSlayer

    Trayvon's girlfriend told him to run because he said some man was following him, when he ran, Zimmerman apparently ran after him and hunted him down like wild game. Latinos can be very racist and have blacks in their midst and families. He probably hated young people who listened to Hip Hop and dressed with hoodies, jeans and tennis shoes. That's racial profiling. He still has the murder weapon. Unbelievable! This piece of vermin should be locked up now!

    March 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
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