Pursue justice in teen shooting
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Sunday, March 18, 2012 18:03
The fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager by a neighborhood watch captain has left a Sanford community begging for justice. The case is now in the national spotlight as many are outraged at the absence of an arrest in the investigation.
Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old from Miami who was visiting relatives in Sanford, was shot in the chest by George Zimmerman, a white 28-year-old who first called a nonemergency Sanford police number to report a suspicious person before getting into a scuffle with the teen. The teen was shot while returning from a 7/11 store, according to police.
Some are left wondering if this was a hate crime fueled by racism and are skeptical of the Sanford Police Department’s willingness to conduct a fair investigation. Critics point out that this department was accused of covering up an incident involving a Sanford cop who assaulted a homeless black man outside a bar in December 2010, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Zimmerman, who was found bleeding from the nose and head, has claimed self-defense, according to authorities. In an unsatisfying press conference earlier this week, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said there is not enough evidence to provide the probable cause needed to arrest the shooter.
Still, the investigation has left several key questions unanswered. Why was Zimmerman, who has been arrested in the past on charges of violence, allowed to carry a gun and act as a neighborhood watch captain? And why did he think Martin appeared suspicious?
On Tuesday, the Sanford Police Department transferred the investigation to the Florida State Attorney’s Office, which will now decide whether to file charges against Zimmerman, according to the Miami Herald. But an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel urges Lee to take it a step further and allow an independent probe by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This might lend the investigation’s findings more credibility in the eyes of distrusting Sanford residents.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has even stepped in with a letter to the Department of Justice asking it to review the case. According to WFTV, the group has “no confidence that absent federal oversight, the Sanford Police Department will devote necessary degree of care to its investigation.”
Although investigators have decided to withhold 911 tapes due to an ongoing investigation, the public, the press and the victim’s family should eventually be allowed to hear them. The Sanford Police Department should seek total transparency in this case and do whatever is necessary to seek justice, whether that leads to an arrest or not.