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Trayvon Martin Case: Authorities Were Barred From Arresting Killer, Official Says

Reut Cohen |
March 22, 2012 | 12:06 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

Trayvon Martin was shot dead on Feb 26. (Creative Commons)
Trayvon Martin was shot dead on Feb 26. (Creative Commons)
Calls for justice in the Trayvon Martin case are growing, with more than a thousand people attending the ‘Million Hoodie March’ on Wednesday to voice outrage over the Florida teen’s death.

"We are not going to stop until we get justice for Trayvon," said Tracy Martin, the victim’s father, to supporters at Union Square in New York City. "My son did not deserve to die."

Martin, 17, was returning from a local convenience store and unarmed when he was shot dead by a neighborhood watch captain.

"Our son did not commit any crime," said Sybrina Fulton, the victim’s mother. "Our son is your son."

Earlier this week the Department of Justice announced that, along with the FBI, it would open an investigation into the teen's death.

911 tapes and a documented report from the victim’s girlfriend who was on the phone with the victim suggest he may have been chased through the gated community where he lived.

The shooter, George Zimmerman, argued he was acting under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. No charges have been pressed against the shooter, who critics say targeted the victim because of his race and made a racial slur against African Americans on the 911 call. Although the media initially identified Zimmerman as white, his family says he is Hispanic and not racist.

On Wednesday the Sanford City Commission voted they had no confidence in Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee. Sanford police apparently did not conduct a drug or alcohol test on the shooter, which is a standard procedure in homicide probes. According to a report from The Lookout, "a witness has said a police officer "corrected" her claim that she heard Martin yelling for help."

In the midst of mounting fury over the teen’s death, Sanford’s city manager said authorities were legally barred from arresting Martin’s killer.

"Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self defense, which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony," wrote Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. in a letter released Wednesday evening. "By Florida Statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time."

The city manager’s letter notes that the 911 dispatcher asked Zimmerman not to follow Martin. However, while that can be considered in the investigation, the letter said that it was "not a lawful order that Mr. Zimmerman would be required to follow."

Zimmerman described the victim as wearing a hoodie and sweatpants or jeans on the 911 tape. “He's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is. Can we get an officer over here?” Zimmerman said. "These assholes always get away," Zimmerman told the operator as he followed Martin.

Clips from the 911 call can be heard here.


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