- Reuters/Orange County Sheriff's Office
George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin "in self defense" is being defended by the Sanford, Fla., police department, who claimed they were "prohibited" from arresting him.
In the wake of Trayvon Martin's death, public outrage has led to many demands for George Zimmerman's arrest, Police Chief Bill Lee's resignation, and an exhaustive investigation into the Feb. 26 incident. To quell the furor, the city of Sanford released a letter explaining the police's actions.
"Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self defense, which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony," read Chief Lee's letter. The letter is signed by Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr., who has the authority to fire the police chief at will. "By Florida Statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time."
The "physical evidence" to which Lee's letter refers could be the state in which they found Zimmerman. The 28-year-old was found bleeding from his head, with grass covering his back as if he had been on the ground, according to the police report.
Trayvon Martin was laying face down on the ground when police arrived. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
The "Florida Statute" the letter mentions is 776.032, now infamously known as the "Stand Your Ground" law. Although the legislation could have given Zimmerman "immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force," police having "probable cause" to arrest the man- in this case, the body of an unarmed teenager- could overrule the prohibition.
Despite the growing outrage and death threats against Zimmerman's life, there are some who think his actions in the past have been nothing short of noble.
"The only impression I have of Zimmerman is a good one," Samantha Leigh Hamilton, a neighbor of his, told Politico. Zimmerman helped notify her that her garage door had been open once.
Others have come forward defending Zimmerman, and Hamilton pointed out that his constant calling of the police- over 50 times in the past eight years- makes sense, considering the crime rates in the gated neighborhood.
"When I hear about him calling the police constantly, it kind of makes sense to me because we had so many break-ins recently," Hamilton said.
Still, crime statistics in Sanford have not subdued the public fury at the slaying of Trayvon Martin. In New York, a "Million Hoodie March" was organized, demonstrating support for the parents of the late teen, and the anger at Zimmerman, who still walks free.
"Our son was not committing any crime," said Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, at the rally. "Our son is your son. I want you guys to stand up for justice and stand up for what's right."