The controversial and tragic case of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot to death by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., last month, continues to make headlines, with leaders calling for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman.
At a town hall meeting Tuesday in Sanford, Fla., where the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Martin took place on February 26, officials from the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Nation of Islam urged residents to remain calm.
At the same time, they demanded that George Zimmerman, be arrested.
Zimmerman (above, right) has not been charged with a crime in the shooting of Martin. He admitted that he shot Martin (above, left), who was returning to a gated community in the city after buying candy at a convenience store.
He says it was all in self-defense after Martin attacked him, however.
Police have said Zimmerman is white; his family says he is Hispanic.
The case has ignited a furor against the police department of this Orlando suburb of 53,500 people, prompting rallies and a protest in Gov. Rick Scott’s office.
“I stand here as a son, a father, and an uncle who is tired of being scared for our boys,” said Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP. “I’m tired of telling our young men how they can’t dress, where they can’t go and how they can’t behave.”
Earlier in the week, the federal agency opened a civil rights probe into the shooting, and in Florida, Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger said a grand jury will meet April 10 to consider evidence in the case.
When The Associated Press tried to reach the police department Tuesday evening for comment, a dispatcher told a reporter to call back in the morning.
Earlier Tuesday, an attorney for Martin’s family revealed the teenager told his girlfriend just moments before he was killed that he was being followed.
“‘Oh he’s right behind me, he’s right behind me again,’” 17-year-old Trayvon Martin told his girlfriend on his cellphone, attorney Benjamin Crump said.
The girl later heard Martin say, “Why are you following me?” Another man asked, “What are you doing around here?’” Crump recalled to reporters.
Crump said Martin cried out when a man bearing a 9mm handgun came at him.
Police said Zimmerman, who was found bleeding from his nose and the back of his head, told authorities he yelled out for help before shooting Martin.
“She absolutely blows Zimmerman’s absurd self-defense claim out of the water,” Crump said of Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend, whose name was withheld.
Martin, in town from Miami to visit his father in Sanford, called his 16-year-old girlfriend in Miami several times, including just before the shooting.
The discovery of the lengthy conversations, including one moments before the shooting, was made by Martin’s father, who checked his cell phone log.
The teenager told the girl on his way back from the store he’d taken shelter from the rain briefly at an apartment building in his father’s gated community.
Martin then told her he was being followed. “She says: ‘Run.’ He says, ‘I’m not going to run, I’m just going to walk fast,’” Crump said, quoting the girl.
After Martin encountered Zimmerman, the girl thought she heard a scuffle “because his voice changes like something interrupted his speech,” Crump said.
The phone call ended before the girl heard gunshots.
The last call was at 7:12 p.m. Police arrived at 7:17 p.m. to find Martin lying face down on the ground. Zimmerman was handcuffed by police.
He was then taken into custody for questioning, but was released by police without being charged. Police have interviewed Zimmerman twice since.
Crump called the treatment patently unfair and asked if Trayvon Martin would have received the same treatment if he had been the shooter.
“We will not rest until he is arrested. The more time that passes, the more likely this is going to be swept under the rug,” Crump said.