Family: Man didn't kill black teen in self-defense
SANFORD, Fla.—Calls made to police show that a black teenager was terrified as he tried to get away from the white neighborhood watch volunteer who shot him, and that the volunteer was not defending himself as he has claimed, the teen's family told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Sanford police released eight 911 calls late Friday. The neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, tells a dispatcher in the first call that he is following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. He says Martin is running, but the dispatcher tells him not to follow the teen.
"How can you claim self-defense and you are the aggressor?" Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin's father, told the AP on Saturday.
Zimmerman had called police to report a suspicious person walking through the gated community. He has said he shot the teen in self-defense. Zimmerman's father said in a letter to the Orlando Sentinel that his son, who is Hispanic, has been cruelly and unfairly portrayed in the media as a racist.
The teen had gone to a convenience store to buy candy and was walking back to his family's home in the neighborhood.
"This guy looks like he is up to no good. He is on drugs or something," Zimmerman told the dispatcher from his SUV. He added that the black teen had his hand in his waistband and was walking around looking at homes.
"These a-------. They always get away," Zimmerman said on a 911 call.
He has said he acted in self-defense, but Martin's family said they are now more convinced than ever that Zimmerman should be charged in the shooting. Several of the 911 calls made by neighbors describe some sort of scuffle or fight outside, someone yelling for help and a gunshot.
"(Zimmerman) was chasing him, he was following him, and my son was afraid," Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, told the AP. "He didn't know who this stranger was."
Tracy Martin said the calls paint a stark picture of what were his son's final moments.
"He was yelling for help, and no one could help him. He saw his life being taken away from him," Tracy Martin said.
The case has been turned over to the State Attorney's Office, which can decide whether to file charges or present evidence to a grand jury.
Trayvon Martin's family said they will continue pushing for charges to be filed against Zimmerman.
"We're hoping this doesn't happen again to another family, and that America opens their eyes ... even though this won't bring Trayvon back, we don't want there to be another Trayvon," Tracy Martin said.
Moments after Zimmerman's first call, dispatchers were bombarded by seven 911 calls from frantic neighbors describing a fight between two men, screaming and then a gunshot.
"There is somebody screaming outside," one female caller said, as an unknown male voice can be heard crying in the background. Then a shot is heard.
A male caller described a physical altercation between Martin and the shooter.
"I just heard a shot right behind my house," The caller said. "They're wrestling right behind my porch. The guy is yelling `Help.' I'm not going outside."
Earlier Friday, Martin's parents called on the FBI to take over the investigation, saying they no longer trusted the Sanford police department.
Sanford police Sgt. David Morgenstern said the department stands by its investigation but welcomes help from any outside agency. FBI agent David Couvertier said the agency has been in contact with Sanford police and is monitoring the case.
"We are committed to having somebody review this to see if we made a mistake," said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett. "If we made missteps and there is something there, we will act accordingly."
Several Sanford residents who spoke to The Associated Press Friday said they think there would have been an arrest already if the shooter had been black and the deceased had been white. They said blacks and whites in this city of 53,000 residents were pretty much in agreement that an injustice had been done with no one arrested, and that there was no racial divide in how the case is being perceived. The city is 57 percent white and 30 percent black. It has a median household income of almost $42,000.
"It's just about ... to be able to take somebody's life in 2012 and not even go to jail for it, that is just sad. No matter, for any color. Not just black or white. Any color," Ladonna Williams, 38, who is black, said as she shopped at the Seminole Towne Center shopping mall, more than a mile from where the shooting took place.
In the letter to the Sentinel, Zimmerman's father says his son has received death threats and moved out of his home. George Zimmerman is Hispanic and grew up in a multiracial family, the statement says.
"He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever ...," the letter says. "The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth."
Associated Press writer Greg Schreier contributed to this report from Atlanta.