- (Photo: Twitter/SkeeDollasNickuhs)
The murder of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old boy who was shot by a neighborhood watchman near his Sanford, Fla. home in a gated community last month, will officially be investigated by federal authorities.
Although George Zimmerman, 28, killed the unarmed Martin in what he called self defense on Feb. 26, he has not been charged with any offense to date. Martin's family and many people in the African-American community have signed a petition calling for a further investigation by authorities for what they believe is a hate crime.
The U.S. Justice Department made an official announcement on Monday, after celebrities and close to 400,000 people signed the petition in an effort to spark an investigation into Martin's death.
"The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation," an email statement from the agency stated.
Although the Sanford, Fla. Police identified Zimmerman as white, his family has called him Hispanic and maintains that he is not racist. However, the assailant's claim of self defense has been questioned by some who highlight the fact that Martin was not in possession of any weapon at the time of the altercation, and had only a bag of skittles on him.
However, a Florida law that was changed in 2005 makes it more difficult to charge Zimmerman with any crime. The law states that a person is not required to retreat if he or she feels threatened, giving the individual the right to kill a person.
During a 911 call, Zimmerman called authorities to complain about Martin, who was walking around suspiciously according to the neighborhood watch representative.
"This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about," Zimmerman told 911 dispatchers. "These (expletives). They always get away."
The dispatchers ordered Zimmerman not to follow Martin, but he decided to do so anyway, and a resulting struggle between him and the teenager had the outcome of Martin being killed. As a result, protests from various groups have called for further investigation into the case, while Rev. Al Sharpton has announced plans to hold a town hall meeting in Martin's hometown on Tuesday evening.
The Justice Department has agreed to conduct an investigation "to address tension in the community."