Overzealous, untrained night watchmen have no place on the streets.
On Feb. 26 Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black high school student, was on his way back to his father’s house from the convenience store when George Zimmerman, 28, stole Martin’s life with a gunshot.
To say that Martin’s life came to a tragic end is an understatement. It just should not have happened. What unfolded is antithetical to what any person should be subjected to.
Zimmerman was an overzealous and self-appointed leader of his neighborhood watch, the quixotic protector for his community. However, he was certainly not the protector Martin and his family needed that fateful night.
According to the Miami Herald, “Zimmerman called police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011 to report disturbances, break-ins, windows left open and other incidents. Nine of those times, he saw someone or something suspicious.”
On the night in question, Zimmerman again dialed 911 before approaching Martin.
“Hey, we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy at Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good,” he said.
At this point, the only thing that Zimmerman knew about Martin was his ethnicity. By all accounts, Martin was not causing trouble. His apparent crime was being black and walking down an affluent street at night.
Several citizens called 911 to report the disturbance that followed. The calls were released Friday.
In one of the chilling calls, you can hear a male voice screaming for help in the background as a female neighbor dictates the situation from her home to the 911 operator. It is followed by a gunshot and stoic silence in the background. Then, the wailing for help was over for good. The silence eats you up inside. You realize that you have just listened to Martin’s last 10 seconds of life. You can almost feel his blood on your shirt. You can almost see the blood on Zimmerman’s hands.
Zimmerman stated it was he who was wailing for help and that he acted only in self-defense. Unfortunately, Martin is not here to refute or confirm Zimmerman’s account. The police did not conduct a background check on Zimmerman nor did they test him for drugs or alcohol; however, Martin was tested to determine if he was under the influence. Pressing questions still remain. Why did Zimmerman feel Martin, an unarmed minor, was suspicious?
Many have suggested Martin was racially profiled. It certainly seems so, but we were not there and are not in Zimmerman’s brain.
Why has Zimmerman not been arrested? The police definitely have probable cause for an arrest.
Many African Americans have long sensed an inherent unfairness in the US justice system. This is a system where Mike Vick can be sentenced to 23 months in prison for the slaying of animals. And current NFL player, Plaxico Burress, can be sentenced to two years in prison for shooting himself at a night club. Mind you, no disturbance was caused, and no one was injured in the incident. But kill a minority child and you get sent home without being arrested and your story of self-defense is taken at face value.
Maybe I am speaking in hyperboles here, but the vast majority of Americans must understand how this looks to the black community.
It was announced Tuesday that the case will soon go to a Florida grand jury and that the justice department will begin investigating the possibility of a hate crime.
This is certainly a step in the right direction but is still too little too late.
Christopher Shelton is a journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected].