The shooting Feb. 28 of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida has been sparking marches in New York and Miami this week and heated exchanges about whether his death was justified.
The teen was shot outside a gated subdivision, where his father lived. The shooter, Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman, said he acted in self-defense.
Exactly what happened is unknown. According to news reports, Martin was unarmed and carrying iced tea and a bag of skittles. Zimmerman, who was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, spotted Martin, called police to report suspicious activity and then followed the teen.
Zimmerman told police he was attacked by Martin and police said he had injuries consistent with the story. Under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, Zimmerman was released. He has not been charged.
The family says Martin was targeted because he was a black teenager walking in a predominantly white neighborhood. There are questions about why Zimmerman was patrolling on Neighborhood Watch with a gun and why he disobeyed a dispatcher who told him not to confront Martin.
The police chief stepped down temporarily yesterday as a result of the growing controversy. Local prosecutors are pursuing the case, and a grand jury has been scheduled for April 10.
The controversy has raised questions not only about Florida's self-defense law, but also about the Neighborhood Watch operations.
...the National Sheriffs’ Association, which sponsors the program nationwide, is absolutely clear on one point: guns have no place in a watch group. A manual distributed by the association repeatedly underscores the point: “Patrol members do not carry weapons.”
The manual warns that watch members should “not attempt to apprehend a person committing a crime or to investigate a suspicious activity.” It should be emphasized to members of patrols, the materials state, that “they do not possess police power and they shall not carry weapons.” The consequences of not following the guidelines are severe, the manual states: “Each member is liable as an individual for civil and criminal charges should he exceed his authority.”
What do you think of Zimmerman's actions? If he were in your Neighborhood Watch, would you support his actions?