Fri March 23, 2012
Outcry Grows As Fla. Shooter Remains Unprosecuted
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Let's go now to Florida, where late yesterday Governor Rick Scott announced that a new state attorney has been assigned to investigate the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The announcement came as thousands rallied in Sanford demanding justice for Martin. The teen was shot as he walked unarmed in Sanford, a suburb of Orlando. The shooter, George Zimmerman, is a volunteer neighborhood watch captain and he claims self-defense. He's also not been arrested. As NPR's Kathy Lohr reports, the cry is growing louder for an arrest to be made.
KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: Helicopters hovered overhead as Reverend Al Sharpton and dozens of national civil rights leaders came to Fort Mellon Park in Sanford, calling for the prosecution of George Zimmerman. Radio personality Michael Baisden says police officers failed to do their job when they did not make an arrest at the time of the shooting.
MICHAEL BAISDEN: It's not about black and white. It's about what's wrong. And what happened here was wrong.
LOHR: Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced he would step aside temporarily yesterday. But most here say that's not enough - that he should leave permanently.
BAISDEN: That ain't right!
CROWD: That ain't right!
BAISDEN: Come on!
CROWD: That ain't right!
LOHR: The governor announced a new state prosecutor will take over the case, and he's appointing a new task force to study the state's Stand Your Ground law. That's what allowed Zimmerman to claim self-defense. The law says a person can use deadly force to protect themselves. But at the rally, Martin Luther King III said an innocent young man was gunned down.
MARTIN LUTHER KING III: And we are showing the nation and world that we are going to stand up consistently for justice, because no lie can last forever.
LOHR: It's not clear what happened the night Trayvon was killed. Zimmerman called 911 saying he saw a suspicious person in the neighborhood. He followed the teen. There was an altercation and Trayvon ended up dead. Most here, like Mitzie Ballintine, a nurse from Orlando, say they don't believe it was self-defense.
MITZIE BALLINTINE: All he said is self-defense and they were satisfied, they were justified with his response, you know? So, you know, every day I think it could be my 20-year-old that is here with me today. It could be my 18-year-old, you know?
LOHR: Getting the city's police chief to step down has been part of the focus for protestors. High school teacher Patrick George from Port St. Lucie says that's just the first step.
PATRICK GEORGE: 'Cause I think Trayvon Martin, it was an injustice, what we've done to him. Not even as a black individual but as a person. Even in America, we all should be able to walk freely in these streets and do what we please without being a threat to anyone by looking suspicious.
LOHR: City leaders have continued to try to calm the furor over the shooting. They say it takes time for the legal system to work. But protestors and activists here say only a prosecution will restore calm to this city. Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Sanford, Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.