Democratic Lawmakers Blast Police in U.S. Teen Killing
Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday blasted police handling of a racially charged case in which a neighborhood watch volunteer shot dead an unarmed black teenager in Florida, accusing local law enforcement officials of botching the investigation.
The lawmakers, speaking at a congressional forum attended by the parents of the slain teenager, called for the immediate arrest of 28-year-old George Zimmerman, the white Hispanic who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26 in what he said was self-defense.
Florida law enforcement officials have faced intense criticism in recent weeks from civil rights activists and others for not arresting Zimmerman, who remains at large and in seclusion. Police say a state “stand your ground” law that allows people to use deadly force when they perceive danger in any public place has prevented them from making an arrest.
Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who represents Sanford, the town where the shooting took place, decried the police inaction, saying she did not know if it was due to incompetence, a cover-up or “all of the above.”
Tuesday’s event underscored how the racially charged case has become increasingly politicized in an election year. President Barack Obama weighed in last week in highly personal terms, saying that if he had a son he would look like Martin, a comment widely interpreted as implicit recognition of the case’s racial overtones.
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who represents another Florida district, said Martin was the victim of a “botched police investigation” and racial profiling, suggesting that the teenager was unfairly “hunted” by Zimmerman simply because he was black.
According to 911 call tapes that have been released, Zimmerman ignored a police request to stop following Martin after calling the emergency number to report that a young man in a hooded sweatshirt looked to be “up to no good.”
Black community leaders say the case is part of a nationwide pattern of discrimination against African Americans. Race remains a flashpoint issue in the United States, which still grapples with a legacy of slavery, segregation and racial bias.