Outcry mounts, answers few in Trayvon Martin shooting

SANFORD, Florida -  

The parents of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen killed by a Hispanic man claiming self-defense, says that police would have arrested the shooter if they themselves weren't racially profiling him.

"I think, for whatever reason, Zimmerman profiled him," said the teen's father Tuesday night, referring to the shooter, George Zimmerman. "And then, even worse, I think the police profiled Trayvon Martin."

The parents, in an appearance on "AC 360," reiterated that the Sanford, Florida, police investigation had been "botched from the beginning."

"I don't think he was (not) charged because they were trying to protect him," Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said of Zimmerman. "They didn't understand how serious this was. They didn't understand the value of my son's life."

Martin's killing has touched a nerve across the nation, sparking calls for justice and Zimmerman's prosecution.

But there also is support for Zimmerman from an unlikely source: an African-American friend, who says he has endured his share of unfair characterizations because of his race.

On Tuesday, Joe Oliver -- a former CNN anchor who now works at WESH-TV in Orlando -- defended his friend, saying he's no racist.

"I understand completely the fear and anger that's out there over this case. If I didn't know George Zimmerman, I'd be right out there, too," said Oliver.

"But I do know George, and I do know that portrayal that young black men have had. I've experienced that growing up. I get that. I understand that, but in this one spark incident, that wasn't the case. Race had nothing to do with it."

A special prosecutor assigned to investigate the case said the "political outcry" is making her job difficult.

"Any time there is a misunderstanding of the process, based on what we are required to do under Florida law, it does make our job more difficult," said prosecutor Angela Corey.

Florida's law allows the use of deadly force anywhere a person feels a reasonable fear of death or serious injury and has been cited in a number of justifiable homicide cases in Florida.

But as more and more information surfaces, the picture of what happened the night of February 26 becomes more complicated.

There is Zimmerman's account as told to police. There are 911 calls with neighbors saying they had heard hearing screams -- though it wasn't clear whether they came from Zimmerman or Martin.

There are neighbors who have gone on television, but not to the authorities, recounting what they saw.

"We believe there may have been one person who saw something," Corey said. "We believe there are a lot of what we call ear-witnesses. My lawyers are trying to track those people down."

Martin was returning to his father's fiancee's house after buying Skittles candy and a can of iced tea from a nearby convenience store. He had on a hoodie.

Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious person and, despite being told by a dispatcher he didn't need to get out of his car, did so.

According to the version of events police apparently gave to Martin's parents, the teen then approached Zimmerman and asked "did he have a problem," Fulton said.

"Zimmerman told him 'No,' and Trayvon supposedly said, 'Well now you do, homey,'" she said, recounting what officers told her.

"And Zimmerman was supposedly reaching into his pocket for his cell phone. At that point, Trayvon punched him. And the scuffle ensued -- which again, knowing Trayvon -- those are not the words of Trayvon. Trayvon is not confrontational. He would only be trying to get home."

Zimmerman was questioned in the shooting but has not been charged because, police said, they did not have evidence to contradict his account.

Corey said investigators would look into the allegations that Zimmerman uttered a racial slur on the phone with police just before the shooting.

CNN enhanced the sound of the 911 call, and several members of CNN's editorial staff reviewed the tape but could reach no consensus on whether Zimmerman used a slur.

Benjamin Crump, the Martin family attorney, said the teen's girlfriend was on the phone with him just before the shooting and that "completely blows Zimmerman's absurd self-defense claim out of the water."

While authorities continue to sort out the facts, coast-to-coast protests have taken place almost daily in recent days. And the hoodie has become a symbol of the public outcry.

Norma Valdez of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, donned a hoodie with "I see dumb people" printed across the front in a statement of solidarity.

"I thought over the weekend how mad I was and wanted to show Trayvon and his family I stand with them," she said. "I can't believe in our day and time people are still perceiving our youth as trouble makers ... I find it hard to believe race wasn't a factor."

Terrence Robinson attended a pair of rallies over the weekend in Chicago, wearing a plain grey hoodie.

"The reason I marched for Trayvon Martin was because I was tired of

seeing young black men like myself (and all youth for that matter) being gunned down due to senseless violence," he said. "I was tired of hearing about and seeing parents have to choose coffins instead of colleges."

Oliver, the Zimmerman friend, told CNN's Piers Morgan that when all the evidence comes out, "this will clearly show this was a case of life or death for either Trayvon or George."

"In my heart of hearts," he said, "I know that a good man was trying to do the right thing and something horribly wrong happened."

CNN's Umaro Djau contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta/+1-404-827-WIRE(9473)
™ & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved


Comments