(Photo: Reuters/Steve Nesius)
The day after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the February 2012 fatal shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., President Barack Obama on Sunday urged "calm reflection" and efforts to curb gun violence.
"I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher," Obama said in a statement on Sunday.
On Saturday night, a jury of six women acquitted neighborhood watch volunteer Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter. In February 2012, Zimmerman, whose parents are white and Hispanic, shot 17-year-old Martin. Many believed the killing was racially motivated, but Zimmerman said the shooting was in self-defense.
After the shooting, Obama said, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon Martin."
"The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America," Obama said Sunday. "But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son."
The president went on to say that the nation should think "if we're doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities."
"We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that's a job for all of us. That's the way to honor Trayvon Martin," Obama said.
However, some Republicans blamed Obama for politicizing the case.
"The evidence didn't support prosecution, and the Justice Department engaged in this, the president engaged in this and turned it into a political issue that should have been handled exclusively with law-and-order," Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said on "Fox News Sunday."
In the same show, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the case was an "American tragedy." "No matter where you stand, this was a tragedy," he said. "What we need to do is come together as a nation of laws, of courts and of civil rights."
The Justice Department also issued a statement on the verdict, saying its Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the FBI continue to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial.
"Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department's policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial," the statement said.
Many churches and Christians responded to Martin's death last year by going to church wearing hooded sweatshirts, showing solidarity with Martin, who wore one when he was killed.
On Sunday, a group of churches from Florida's Seminole County called Sanford Pastors Connecting announced noon prayers on Monday in response to the verdict, according to USA Today.
"Our call is to pray for our community for the long-term unity, peace and strength of relationships," the Rev. Charlie Holt of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Lake Mary, Fla., was quoted as saying. "Our churches welcome any and all to come and offer prayer to the Lord for ourselves, for all involved and for our community."