On any given day or night in America, an adult who possesses a concealed carry permit to hide a firearm on his body, volunteers as a block captain for his neighborhood watch program. While driving in his SUV, he spots a person wearing a dark hoodie acting "suspicious." He calls 9-1-1 and reports his sighting stating that his area has suffered several break-ins. He heeds the dispatcher advice to wait for an officer and stop following him. Police arrive and detain the "suspect" who is found to be a son of a resident in the community. The caller is thanked for being observant, the officers are thanked for being prompt and the "suspect" is thanked for being patient during his short detention. Ah, if only things worked the way they were designed.
Unless you have just returned from a recent jaunt in the Amazon, you know that on 2/26/12 near a gated community in Sanford FL, this scenario played to disastrous consequences. An African-American male wearing a hoodie, Trayvon Martin lost his life. A Hispanic descent male, George Zimmermann killed him. What lead up to confrontation is documented by statement, witness and comm center audio. The ten or twelve seconds that lead to Martin's death from the muzzle of Zimmermann's pistol remains the controversy.
If you listen to the original call placed by Zimmermann, he does exactly what he is supposed to do as a Block Captain. Be a witness and provide the reason and description of the person in question. Then, he commits to a higher calling. Disregarding the dispatcher's suggestion to wait for the uniform, he hangs up and continues following the "suspect" first mobile, then on foot.
The person is Trayvon Martin, the seventeen year-old visiting his father. He is returning from a convenience store with his candy and soda. He notices an SUV following him. He possibly calls his girl friend to report being followed. (His upbringing has not been illustrated enough to get a feel for what his reaction to this might be.)
I listened to a 9-1-1 call where the caller captured the shouting just before a gunshot is heard. Zimmerman's camp maintains that it is Zimmermann who is yelling for help while the parents for Martin declare that it is their son who is in duress. I cannot tell who makes a plea for assistance. What is evident from the emergency calls is that there are alot of residents home because it is only 7:17 PM.
Crime scene processing can answer a few telling questions. How close to Zimmerman's car was the struggle? Photographs of Zimmerman's injuries? The shot trajectory from weapon to impact and distance between? Other questions that need just to be asked is: What training does Zimmerman have as Block Captain and where did he get it from? What firearms training does he have and who gave it to him. He obviously is not a sworn police officer in training or recognition. Has he ever applied for such a position and was turned down? Somehow we learned that Martin was suspended from school from marijuana but what of Zimmerman? From the facts of the case prior to the twelve seconds in limbo, we learn that Mr. Zimmermann was ill prepared to be following a "suspect" this night let alone possibly contacting him.
I do find an unusual amount of information being released for an ongoing criminal investigation. I found a partial police report available to download, the aforementioned 9-1-1 calls and video depicting Zimmermann's conveyance from crime scene to the PD. But this no usual case. The race card dropped. The parents demand an arrest. The Reverends' Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton descended upon the town turning a poorly conceived tragedy into yet another circus.
The Sanford FL politicians made a knee-jerk reaction to suspend the white police chief and fill his slot with an African-American captain from the same department. A politician got kicked off the podium for wearing a hoodie to memorialize Martin. Sports teams and big dollar athletes are taking pictures in hoodies. We even have a "celebrity" that needed to tweet an information of a person involved... Oops, wrong address. Even President Obama put his two cents in.
The bottom line is those same politicians championed concealed carry permits and wrote ill conceived laws like the "Hold your ground" and the "Castle Doctrine." Issuing permits to people who have no training at all is reckless. Check out my blog entitled "May the Deadly Force be with You" from September 2011 that will qualify my allegation. Giving a blanket pardon to people to shoot other people without the ability to measure their actions will lead to more unneeded killings.
A Huffington Post article compared this incident to a shooting that happened earlier this March in Slinger WI. A white homeowner shot a shape coming at him on the home owner's back porch. The shape belonged to another African-American male, an intoxicated underage drinker trying to elude the cops checking out the drinking party next door. The prosecutor applied the self-defense standard with the Castle Doctrine in the bull pen to rule the homeowner would not be charged criminally. You can bet a wrongful death civil suit emerges, however.
The Wisconsin Castle Doctrine clearly implies a positive immunity to this situation. The Florida "Stand your Ground" version seems a little vague in application but extends the same protection. Therefore, people cannot simply demand justice when the stars come out. The politicians need to choose a more common sense rule of thumb to evaluate use of force altercations. I extend my sympathy to the Martin family and the Morrison family. No matter how old someone gets, they are still some one's baby in their heart and that loss is great.