Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We really need to stop shooting our children

Of course I'm following the story of Trayvon Martin. 

Here's what perplexes me about the response of law enforcement:

1. A man in a car reports suspicious activity.
2. He's told to not engage with the person he's reporting.
3. He gets out of the car
4. He engages with the person he's reporting.
5. He shoots the person.

How is this self-defense and imminent peril?
How exactly is this guy not arrested?
He shot someone. An unarmed someone.  On a sidewalk he went to in order to confront this person.

Leave out all the details.  Race,  age,  body size.  Leave it all out, and it still boggles my mind that there's any question of self-defense.

And if for any reason you're still thinking "well, maybe there's another side to this story" think about these two things:

Would the police have handled this differently if a black man got out of his car, shot a white kid on a sidewalk and claimed self-defense?

What if it had been your kid?

Gina Carroll says what's in my heart. Just a lot better. 

President Obama: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon"

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Feaky Snucker said...

Agreed. It's complete bullshit.

Elisabeth Black said...

It's horrifying and heartbreaking.

Ali Trotta said...

Agreed. It is terrible. There's no reason for it to have happened.

Barbara McDowell said...

How indeed. The detail of race seems to provide the answer.

Leigh Covington said...

Mind boggling is right. Completely ridiculous, cruel and terrible would also work.

Kalen O'Donnell said...

Oh, the police have been criminally inept, IMO....even giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they aren't cutting corners because of their own bias. Here's some more details:

1. They took George Zimmerman at his word that he didn't have any record, telling the Martin family his record was "squeaky clean." It was a news channel that found out he was arrested for assaulting a police officer and another time for domestic violence. They did, however, check Trayvon's record.

2. They never tested George Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol. They did test Trayvon's blood postmortem.

3. The police chief told the press this was not a case of racial profiling because Zimmerman didn't even know he was black. But you listen to the 911 tapes (they can be found online) and you can hear him say "I think it's a black guy" and "yeah, he's black" and "fucking coon".

4. They never checked his phone records to see if Trayvon called anybody, and in fact, it turns out he was on the phone with his girlfriend when it happened.

Just completely reprehensible all around.

Britni Patterson said...

I'm so glad the Justice Dept. is getting involved.

Murder was committed, and there's going to be a huge pile of responsibility that needs to be dumped back on the shoulders that didn't do the right thing in the first place.

I hurt for Trayvon's parents.

Larissa said...

It makes me utterly sick. Even worse that this happened very near where I live.

I seriously can't even wrap my brain around it.

Laura said...

It turns out the officer who arrested Zimmerman was only on the job 10 months. People are calling for his resignation. But regardless of how inexperienced or inept he was, the mind-bogglingly obvious things you listed should not have happened. I don't know if he was even taken into custody that night, or what. What's worse about the whole thing is that he's claiming self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground" law, which states that if you are attacked and stand your ground to defend yourself and end up killing the other person, that's self-defense. Zimmerman clearly followed the kid, when told NOT to by the dispatcher, and shot him. That is not standing your ground by any stretch of the imagination.

I don't think there's any way you can read this as NOT a hate crime. Especially since his entire reason for stalking and killing Trayvon was that he was a suspicious-looking black guy.

Kate Larkindale said...

I read about this earlier today and was utterly appalled by it. How can it not be murder?

Bonnee Crawford said...

It's pretty sick, and so not just. Human's are fickle creatures.

Michelle McLean said...

Makes me sick to my stomach and angry as hell. And I'm absolutely heartbroken for his poor family.

Anonymous said...

What enrages me is how so many, otherwise smart, Mo-Mos say, "well, we can't do anything, because of Florida's Stand Your Ground Law." Yet we amend and even strike down laws every day. We enforce and cast aside laws at our convenience, usually based on factors of race, gender and economics. My prayers are with the family.

Kathryn Elliott said...


Nathan Rudy said...

What totally stuns me is that people are still excusing the shooter's behavior, as if it is OK to have committed such a terrible act because ... I don't really know the because.

As near as I can tell they excuse it because Trayvon Martin might have been a possible threat in an alternate universe.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I thought the early '60s ended fifty years ago. Really now...I mean really, has anything actually changed?
Yes, but it's weird.
We have a black president and this happens to a black kid, and the shooter is free.
What does this say about us?
What does they say about our nation?
If I had the answers I'd be president, oh I'm female, well that's not gonna' happen now is it.
Helloooo '60s.

Mister Furkles said...

What changed since the the fifties is that the County PA, the State of Florida AG, and the DOJ are investigating the Sanford police.

Two things happened: An unarmed teen was murdered walking down the street. The city police didn't adequately investigate.

Only the second item is unusual. With a million people protesting, it won't stand as is. The horror would be if nobody cared and that was what happened in the fifties.

Jared X said...

The story starts with the words "suspicious activity." My teenagers to walk to the corner store all the time. On the way there, they have a small amount of cash. On the way back, they have snacks or the milk I asked them to buy.

But my kids' faces (under the hoodies they also wear) are white. So it's not suspicious to anybody.

The ending of this story is more horrifying than I, as a parent, can wrap my brain around. But the beginning is "suspicious activity," defined as a black kid walking through a largely white neighborhood armed with a bag of Skittles. That's what we all have to fix in the long run: seeing a kid walking down the street as a kid instead of a threat, whatever color his face might be under the hoodie.

Robin Ruinsky said...

Jonathan Capehart, the very fine political columnist for the Washington Post talked about his experience growing up in a country that profiles young black men. He was told by his mother never to run or someone would think he was running from something not to somewhere. She told him never carry anything in his hand or it could be an excuse to shoot him.
It really hasn't changed. I'm not sure it ever will.
But I know one thing. It's not what this country is supposed to be.

Steve Stubbs said...

Normally when someone murders someone it is considered stupid to get caught. If the murderer does get caught anyway, naturally he or she pretends to be innocent as a newborn babe. If Jared Laughner claims to be innocent that pretty well proves the point. If there is no way to claim it was someone else, about the only two defenses are insanity (Laughner) or self-defense (Zimmerman). It is the responsibility of the COURT to decide whether to buy into that crap. In Laughner’s case, the court is deciding, and the rest of us are laughing at his “insanity” defense. In Zimmerman’s case, the police have pre-empted the court’s role and the police are laughing at the rest of us. Unfortunately for Zimmerman there is no statute of limitations on murder and the FBI is involved. They can grab that bastard on his deathbed if they want to.

It ain't over until it's over.

Florida justice.

You can’t say Florida without the “duh.”

gregkshipman said...

Every so often something like the Martin case happens. One would think I refer to the senseless slaughter of an innocent. But I actually refer to the widespread publicity of the act. There have been thousands of Trayvon Martin's in this society. Baltimore (my hometown) is littered with the ghosts of innocent young black men. It takes a George Zimmerman scenario to bring the situation to light. My dad taught us boys how to survive in a world where your skin color is a deficit. He explained that we live in a 'three strike society' and our color is the automatic first two.

Today's society, for the most part, has shed the blatant racism of the 40's-60's. The Martin case (a situation which bleeds my heart)shows that all the dinosaurs from the past era are not dead. And if we allow this one to walk away clean... he'll simply hunt again.

Bringing this murderer to trial is as much about the need to say 'no more' as it is about justice. The Zimmerman's in this country must realize this 'blood sport' will not be tolerated.

Kristin Laughtin said...

It's so clearly a case of an overzealous wannabe "good citizen" who's likely anything but, and some poor kid is dead because of it. Regardless of race (though it seems clear that was a factor), it's ridiculous to expect that you will be able to shoot an unarmed person just because they're looking around and you think they don't look like they belong. I pray there will be justice.

Mister Furkles said...

In the case of Jered Loughner, he is a stark raving mad schizophrenic. He'd been in a psychotic break for four years. It is not a behavioral disorder. It is only an excuse if he either didn't know what he was doing or didn't know it was wrong. He will never get out of a lockup facility.

I'm guessing Zimmerman has some kind of mental disorder. One report said he had previously been arrested for assaulting a police officer and another that he'd been arrested for domestic assault. If either of these are true, he should not have been issued a carry permit or sold a firearm.

This murder is not a reflection on race relations today. When I was very young, the Jim Crow laws were still on the books. People I knew snickered about the doings of the KKK. Disdain for Negros was open.

People with wrong attitudes toward their fellow citizens do not change their minds. They get old and die off. Their grandchildren adapt different attitudes.

I am pleased that nearly everybody is angry about this murder. That would not have been the case long ago. It is still murder of a teen minding his own business walking home from the store.

Crack You Whip said...

This is one of the saddest stories I have seen in a while and is a complete outrage.

Hopefully, justice will prevail in this case soon.

Lily Cate said...

This was nothing less than first degree murder of a child, and should be prosecuted as such. I am baffled that it has been treated like a case of legislative semantics, instead of the the horrifying crime that it is.

Elissa M said...

I don't think I can believe that we will ever live in a world without racism and hatred. It just seems too ingrained in the human psyche.

But... maybe we can push it back under the rocks where it belongs, and maybe, fewer children will be murdered without consequence just because their skin was the "wrong" color.

It is gratifying that I haven't seen anyone supporting this particular murderer (though no doubt there are some muck-dwelling neanderthals who are gloating in secret).

As Janet (and others) have said, the man was told NOT to go after the person he was following, and yet he did. How can this possibly be self-defense?

The Busy Author said...

Janet and friends. You ask "what if it had been your kid?" In a way, it was. My nephew had a similar experience but he walked away unharmed. Why? We live in Canada. Neighborhood Watch was not carrying a gun. I blogged about it today.

Anthony Pacheco said...


In the spirit of answering your question, Zimmerman was arrested under “Homicide, Negligent Manslaughter, Unnecessary Killing to Prevent Unlawful Ac.” What you probably are asking is: why was he not further detained or immediately charged?

Far be it for me to interrupt the virtual pitchfork and torch waving going on here, but I will take a moment and interject some factual data points into this thread.

Zimmerman claimed to have called for help after being beaten by Martin and that when no help was forthcoming, that is when he shot him. The arrest report does indeed note injuries to Zimmerman consistent with some type of physical altercation, and later we have a person who witnessed an altercation in which Zimmerman called for help while he was on the ground being struck by Martin. Now eyewitnesses are unreliable, but the witness (who did not witness the shot as he was calling police) corroborates the police report.

I am not familiar with Florida criminal procedure, but usually things like this go to a Grand Jury.

Which this case has.

Before anybody starts arguing with me by proxy, a favorite tactic when I toss the better part of my judgment aside and comment on some political or hot-issue topic on Janet’s blog with facts rather than histrionics, I feel Zimmerman is morally guilty of Martin’s death. When you carry a firearm, modern self-defense doctrine dictates that you avoid altercations least you have to use your firearm in a situation that you yourself escalated.

If what Zimmerman did was against the law that is a different matter. I believe our justice system is far from perfect, but it is built on the basic tenants that a person is innocent until proven guilty, yet another concept conspicuously absent from these comments.

Jo-Ann said...

It's intersting to follow this story. I live on the other side of the planet, and this post was the first I'd heard of the case. Not a big enough story, apparently.

I think it's wonderful that a writers' community is becoming outraged about this incident. Writers matter - the pen is really more powerful than the sword. Dont limit your outrage to a blog post, write about racism, about the insidious power of preconceptions.

Write from the point of view of the bigot, mirror and lampoon their "logic" so that maybe those who hold such views might start to question them. Write from the POV of the person in the minority, who is regarded with suspicion. Write about how facing such attitudes daily breeds defensiveness and fear, and erodes self esteem.

John Farnham had a hit in the 80s with a song about the media "the voice" (it never made it in the US), but I'll end with a line from it... "You're the voice, try to understand it, make a noise and make it clear..."

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

This is awful. One thing to keep in mind, though, just because he hasn't been charged yet doesn't mean he won't be. It sometimes takes what seems like an absurd amount of time before charges are made. Especially if the officers at the scene are also under investigation, which it sounds like they should be.
We can only hope that is the case here and that justice will be done.