The U.S. Department of Justice‘s Civil Rights Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will open an investigation into the shooting death Trayvon Martin. The unarmed Florida teen was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer on February 26.
The federal and state agencies are now getting involved in what attorneys say has been a botched investigation into the killing of the Michael Krop Senior High School student. Trayvon, 17, who had been suspended from school, was staying at his father’s girlfriend’s home when he walked to a local 7-Eleven store to buy some candy and iced tea.
Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 28, called 911 and said that he saw someone who looked drugged, was walking “too slowly” in the rain, and seemed to be looking at people’s homes. Zimmerman said the stranger had his hand in his waistband and held something in his other hand.
Zimmerman reportedly had a long history of phoning in everything from open garage doors to “suspicious characters.”
The unarmed teenager was carrying Skittles and a can of Arizona iced tea.
Zimmerman claims that he stepped out of his truck to check the name of the street he was on when Trayvon attacked him from behind. He said he feared for his life and fired the handgun he had been licensed to carry.
“The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “The department also is providing assistance to and cooperating with the state officials in their investigation into the incident. With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids – the highest level of intent in criminal law.
“Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws.”
Martin’s family is accusing Sanford police of changing their story to fit Zimmerman’s account. Several witnesses said they heard cries that sounded like a boy wailing – silenced by gunfire – and were later stunned to hear police portray the cries as Zimmerman’s. One witness said police repeatedly ignored her phone calls.
Members of Congress and several black clergy members were calling for a federal investigation. At a rally outside the Sanford courthouse yesterday, students called for Zimmerman’s arrest.
Police Chief Bill Lee said he felt that his investigators were fair and thorough.
“I can say very confidently we would welcome any outside entity that wants to come look at what we did,” Lee said last week. “They are welcome to come here and look at it. We have not done anything but conduct a fair and complete investigation.”
Listen to the 911 call and see more in the video below.
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