The national outcry over the shooting death of an unarmed Black teenager in an Orlando, Fla., suburb has forced the police chief and the county prosecutor to be removed from the investigation as demands grow for the killer to be arrested.
The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., has sparked a national outcry.
On Thursday, thousands of people rallied in Sanford demanding an arrest. That same day, Police Chief Bill Lee announced he was temporarily stepping down. Hours later Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that the local state attorney, Norman Wolfinger, had recused himself from the case.
It is clear that the announcements were made mainly to try to cool down the building anger against local police for not arresting George Zimmerman, 28, who admitted to shooting the teen but said he fired in self-defense.
Lee said had become a “distraction,” and in his letter to the governor, Wolfinger said his departure was aimed at “toning down the rhetoric” in the case.
Undoubtedly the growing protests forced officials to take action.
Sanford police decided not to arrest Zimmerman after he shot Martin to death on Feb. 26. Martin was returning from a trip to a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers he looked suspicious. At some point during the confrontation Zimmerman pulled out his gun and shot Martin to death.
The Florida authorities half-measures did not appease Martin’s parents and nor should they appease anyone else seeking justice until Zimmerman is arrested and charged.
Under public pressure, the Justice Department and the FBI have opened a civil rights investigation and a special prosecutor has been named.
This was necessary because Sanford police have mishandled the investigation.
Police took Zimmerman’s word and claimed there was no evidence to contradict his claims that he was attacked by an unarmed boy that was 100 pounds lighter. Zimmerman was the one armed and in pursuit in defiance of the police dispatcher’s request not to pursue Martin. Zimmerman was armed with a 9mm. Martin was carrying a can of iced tea and a bag of candy.
Martin’s parents were first told by police that Zimmerman had a clean record. Police based their assertion solely on what Zimmerman had told them. But Zimmerman had been arrested in 2005 on charges of resisting arrest. The charges were later dropped. Later that year Zimmerman and his girlfriend filed domestic violence charges against each other.
Another red flag about Zimmerman is that according to news reports Zimmerman called police 46 times since January 2011. The Miami Herald reported that neighbors say he was fixated on crime and targeted young Black men.
The Trayvon Martin tragedy is apparently not the first time that Sanford police has mishandled incidents involving African Americans
The Miami Herald reported that the Sanford Police Department “was accused of giving favorable treatment to relatives of officers involved in violent encounters with blacks.”
The Martin’s family repeated demands Thursday that Zimmerman be charged.
“We want an arrest, we want a conviction and we want him sentenced for the murder of my son,” Martin’s father, Tracy, said.