Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Neighborhood Watch

On February 26 at 7:25 PM, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman inside the boundaries of a gated community located in Sanford, Florida. We know that at 7:00 PM Zimmerman called 911 to report a “suspicious person” walking in the area whom he admits to following. The dispatcher urges him to discontinue the pursuit and at some point Zimmerman loses site of Martin.

We know that Martin was on the phone with his girlfriend at 7:10 PM and at some point after that Zimmerman and Martin’s paths crossed again causing an altercation. At 7:25 PM the local 911 dispatch center receives multiple calls describing someone “screaming” and “hollering” for help. In the aftermath, we learn that Martin was unarmed and on his way back to his father’s house after purchasing a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. When police arrive at the scene of the shooting, Zimmerman is bleeding from the nose and back of the head and insists that he fired his weapon his self-defense.

Sadly, those two paragraphs constitute almost all of the independently-verifiable facts in Trayvon’s death. Zimmerman insists that Martin viciously attacked him and was slamming his head into the sidewalk. Meanwhile Martin’s girlfriend indicates that Zimmerman’s account is inaccurate and that he, not Trayvon, was the aggressor. Neither version can be completely corroborated, so the absence of facts has led to an onslaught of reckless conjecture.      

Many of Trayvon’s supporters insist that he was the victim of an overzealous racist, who murdered a 17-year-old boy and is hiding behind an archaic self-defense law. Zimmerman’s supporters portray him as a concerned citizen who narrowly escaped dying at the hands of a violent troublemaking thug.

Let me be clear, I have not seen a single shred of evidence that George Zimmerman is a racist or even began that evening with the intent of ending someone’s life. He did, however, disregard common sense and official advice in continuing to pursue Trayvon. Like it or not, this decision allowed a series of events to transpire that ended in Trayvon’s death.  Had he simply placed the call and gone home, there is no reason to believe this would have become anything more than an inconvenient misunderstanding.

Almost more infuriating than the incident itself is the irresponsible rush to either unilaterally condemn or fully exonerate Zimmerman based on facts we don’t currently have. The Black Panthers announced they were offering $10,000 for the capture of Zimmerman while the shooter’s supporters began circulating a photo of a shirtless, saggy-pants Martin flipping the two-handed bird. Then the character assassination began. Zimmerman’s supporters reminded everyone that Martin was serving out a suspension from school after being caught with an empty baggy of marijuana residue and Martin’s advocates responded that Zimmerman had been previously charged with domestic assault and resisting arrest.

First of all, I did not even know The Black Panthers were still around or that they were solvent enough to come up with $10,000 in cash. I have a feeling that even if someone were to "capture" Zimmerman and attempt to claim the money the Panther’s would insists the reward be distributed as a gift certificate to their online store. Dear Panthers, there are much better uses for that money so do us all a favor and occupy yourselves with identifying some of them.

Secondly, how desperate are you to portray someone as a thug that you would publish and circulate a photo of someone before bothering to confirm the identity? The photo was plucked from the Facebook page of another African-American male named Trayvon Martin who resides in a different state; but even if it was him how does it shed any light on the events of that fateful evening? If the existence of a shirtless double-bird pic is a viable reason to implicate someone in the commission of a crime, Kid Rock would be on his third appeal already. Furthermore, if I am Zimmerman and trying to prove I am not racist the last thing I need is a bunch of outspoken supporters who are unable to tell one black male from another. 
The other Trayvon Martin
What it boils down to is whether or not George Zimmerman was acting within the constraints of the law when he used his firearm on Trayvon Martin. If he was not, then he should be found guilty and punished accordingly. If his actions were lawful and he truly was in immediate mortal danger then Mr. Zimmerman cannot be held responsible for crimes he did not commit. Either way, I suggest he retire as neighborhood watch captain.

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