Over the last month the country has been up in arms about the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old boy in Florida. The shooter, George Zimmerman, was a 28 year old Hispanic male who was a ‘neighborhood watchman’. Zimmerman claimed self defense in the shooting and to this date hasn’t been arrested or charged in the incident. The country has been screaming for Zimmerman to be arrested and charged. The details that we do know are that Martin was visiting his dad that evening and was walking home from the local 7-11 with some iced tea and a pack of Skittles. He was wearing a hoodie when Zimmerman first noticed him and called the police indicating that their was a ‘suspicious’ person walking through the neighborhood. The operator told Zimmerman to back off and the police would check it out. The next thing we know is that there was some sort of scuffle and Zimmerman shot and killed Martin. Zimmerman was legally carrying a concealed weapon and had a valid permit in Florida.
My point here (although it takes me a while to get there) is not to determine that Zimmerman was in the right when he shot Trayvon Martin. It’s not to prove he’s guilty. It’s to illustrate what can happen when you use your firearm in self-defense. Whether justified or not, Zimmerman’s life will never be the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a hard time finding a job for years down the road and will be publicly ridiculed (if he doesn’t end up in jail) for the rest of his life. As we’ll see, using your firearm should be a last resort–the last ditch effort when you have no other options to get out of the situation. The nation largely thinks Zimmerman was a self appointed vigilante looking to trouble and an excuse to use his weapon. They are claiming this incident was murder and we’re letting the murderer go free because of lax self defense and gun laws in Florida.
While I’m not claiming that this isn’t true (the part about Zimmerman–not the gun laws in Florida), I have been completely surprised and fed up with the media and many others that have turned to a mob-like mentality to find Zimmerman (he is currently in hiding for fear of his life) and take justice into their own hands. “The police have failed us and so we must take justice into our own hands” is what I keep hearing. The New Black Panthers put out a $10,000 bounty on “capturing” Zimmerman. Spike Lee tweeted out what he thought was Zimmerman’s address; he actually tweeted out the wrong address leading a bloodthirsty gang to an elderly couple in their 70’s home rather than the home of Zimmerman. In addition to visits they received at their home they also received hate mail causing them to fear for their life and flee to a hotel. Spike Lee quickly settled with the older couple and publicly apologized asking for everyone to leave them alone. As if there wasn’t a lesson to be learned by Spike Lee’s miscalculation, Roseanne Barr decided to tweet another address for George Zimmerman. She then removed it, but threatened to tweet it again saying on twitter:
“If Zimmerman isn’t arrested I’ll rt his address again. maybe go 2 his house myself” (See here)
Did Roseanne get the address right? Well it seems that she got the address of George Zimmerman’s parents–but she even admitted that she wasn’t sure if she got the address correct. But what exactly is she going to do if/when she goes to Zimmerman’s parents house?
The constant response from the media and general public has been one inciting violence and anger. They’ve lashed out at the local authorities demanding justice. What is ironic to me is the hypocritical nature of these people-they are acting just like what they feel is wrong with what Zimmerman did by seeking to take police matters into their own hands. They are furious that Zimmerman took the law into his own hands by killing a young kid instead of heeding the police operators advice to ‘leave it to the police to take care of the issue’ and so they decide to take justice into their own hands rather than letting the police take care of the issue. But even if they simply “want justice” without taking matters into their own hands, what seems to be lost through all of this is innocence until guilt is proven. Few people seem to care to let Zimmerman have a chance to share his side of the story and let the facts come out–with these groups, Zimmerman is guilty until proven innocent.
So what actually happened that night? I don’t know, and neither does almost anyone else in the world. The problem here is that we have bits and pieces that people put together into various different puzzles that give us different pictures of what actually happened that night. But let’s take a look at the incident from the point of view of Zimmerman–based on various stories and sources this is the viewpoint from the shooter as best I can tell. Even though the truth of this side of the story is still unknown it paints a very different picture of the events of that evening and helps us see two sides.
Zimmerman was driving out of his neighborhood running an errand when he noticed Martin (it’s still unclear whether he was “patrolling” the neighborhood or was simply driving through when he noticed Martin). Something about the teenager seemed suspicious–it was raining and Martin was walking slowly and peering into the windows of the houses in the gated community and yes–wearing a hoodie. Because of numerous break-ins that had happened in the neighborhood recently, and because he felt it was his duty as a neighborhood watch person, Zimmerman called the non-emergency police line to report the suspicious behavior as he watched him from his truck. Zimmerman had made similar calls before as far as I can find never approached anyone before. He even indicated on one call that he didn’t want to “approach him personally.” While Zimmerman was on the line with the police operator with regards to Martin the teen initially looked at Zimmerman and started towards him, but then went off somewhere out of view. Zimmerman initially started following him, but the police operator asked him to stop following him, which Zimmerman claims to have complied with. It’s also unclear how far Zimmerman followed him and at what point the next series of events took place, but at some point as he returned to his vehicle Martin came up from behind and asked if Zimmerman “had a problem”. The response came that he didn’t have a problem was returned with “now you do”. Martin then attacked Zimmerman punching him in the face and dragging him to the ground where he continued to punch him in the face and slam his head into the sidewalk. Zimmerman, fearing for his life, then pulled and used his firearm firing one shot to end the assault. When police arrived on the scene they noted in the police report that Zimmerman was bleeding from his nose and back of his head and his shirt appeared to be wet and had grass all over it. To me this would indicate that he had indeed been on his back and had his head slammed or rubbed on the hard surface. In a surveylance photo taken at the police station that evening you can see what appears to be a several inch long cut on the back of Zimmerman’s head. There are also reports that Zimmerman had actually broken his nose as well. I read one lady who wrote that she thought that there was now way Zimmerman had his nose broken. Friends of hers who had broken their nose were in so much pain that they couldn’t do a thing and went to the hospital right away. It didn’t sound like this lady has any experience with a broken nose so I will enlighten her. A broken nose is indeed painful, but the notion that Zimmerman is lying because he didn’t run straight to the ER is absurd. It’s beyond absurd. It’s a well known fact that people in life or death situations have a rush of adrenalin to dull pain temporarily. However, even if that weren’t the case, to think that you couldn’t do a thing before going straight to the hospital is laughable. I’ve broken my nose during a football game courtesy of a cleat coming through my face mask, and while it was very painful I didn’t even go out of the game. My eyes watered up and I couldn’t see clearly for a 30 seconds to a minute or so, but stayed in the game and continued to play. I didn’t have a medical professional look at it until about 5 days later. And I probably wouldn’t have even done that if I wasn’t trying to play in another football game later that week. Either way, to think that your life was in danger with someone on top of you smashing your head into a sidewalk isn’t that far of a stretch. The real questions are about how the confrontation started–which is where the details seem to be the most unclear. If Zimmerman’s side of the story is correct, it is a much easier story to understand the self defense claim by Zimmerman.
One of the other things that is disturbing about the reporting of this incident is the portrayals of who both Martin and Zimmerman are. What type of people they are and what they’ve done–the image of both is crucial to framing the perception of the shooting. Most of the outcry’s call this a hate crime and racially charged. They claim that Zimmerman is a racist white man who doesn’t like African-Americans so he took the opportunity to shoot a little black kid who wore a hoodie. The truth seems to be quite different than the initial media portrayal. On the police call he didn’t volunteer Martin’s race until he was specifically asked for the race of the individual. The claim that Zimmerman made a racial slur on the line is also unfounded–after listening to the call more than a dozen times I still can’t make out what Zimmerman said (see 2 min 21 seconds on the recording here). As for Zimmerman’s background, his father is white, but his mother is Peruvian. He grew up in a multi-racial home and his African-American friend has come out insisting that he is not racist and it’s been reported that Zimmerman also tutored two young African-American children whose mother denies Zimmerman ever did anything to make her think that he might be racist. Even so, the media decided that he needed to be a “white-Hispanic”, a term that seems to have been made up just to describe Zimmerman himself to keep consistent with the racist theme. Zimmerman has also been pegged as a violent person. He was charged in 2005 with assault on a police officer. While this is true, he was never convicted of the charge. That doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t do anything, but it also could mean that whatever happened was justified in the eyes of the court.
Martin on the other hand, is portrayed as an innocent young child. In fact, pictures that are floating around the internet and news reports show what a young Martin looked like as a 13 year old boy–not a more current picture of the 17 year old that show a different person. He apparently had large tattoos and gold teeth. Does that make someone a bad person? Absolutely not–but it does portray someone quite different than the little 13 year old boy who couldn’t possibly harm someone much larger. Martin was also tweeting under the name “@No_Limit_Nigga” as well as another handle “@T33ZY_TAUGHT_M3” where he apparently tweeted:
“Plzz shoot da #mf dat lied 2 u!”
(Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/03/26/the-daily-caller-obtains-trayvon-martins-tweets/#ixzz1rg0P7VoN). As for the rest of Martin’s story, he was visiting his father’s home that fateful evening because he was suspended from school-a fact that the media thinks is irrelevant to the case. However, they have no issues reminding us of Zimmerman’s “history of violence” based on a charge that he was never convicted of. Zimmerman is normally shown in what looks like a prison jumpsuit rather than another picture of him that would portray him as a normal law-abiding citizen. It has been reported that Martin was suspended from school at that time for possession of marijuana (at least an empty plastic baggie that had residue present). Was Martin using marijuana, was he holding some for a friend, or was he selling the illegal drug? Either way, Martin is portrayed much differently by the majority of the media.
Again, this whole case is a huge incident of “guilty until proven innocent”. People have asked for Zimmerman to be arrested and brought to justice. But that is based on the assumption that he is already guilty. They are assuming that the police are wrong and Zimmerman murdered in cold blood. My point in all of this is not to play judge or jury here–quite the opposite. It is to illustrate a few points for concealed carry permit holders. If you use your weapon, justified or not, you most likely will be scrutinized. Your life could be turned upside down. You could be plastered all over the news for killing an innocent young boy (even if he was actually quite older and more “mature” than he is portrayed). You may have a $10,000 bounty put on your head and have to go in hiding for your own safety. Your family may be put at risk for being criticized and possibly attacked. And all this can happen even if you act in self defense and have a clean history. Before you pull the trigger, you better be sure that your life is in danger. Where would Zimmerman be today if he had not pulled the trigger? Would he be buried in a coffin right now or would he be in a hospital? Would he have had some injuries and recovered weeks ago? I don’t know the answer but I would bet that if Zimmerman could have suffered a few injuries and avoided all of the aftermath he’d take that in a heartbeat. On the other hand, if he’d be dead right now if he didn’t act then he made the right choice. And for Zimmerman, my hope is that he’s allowed a chance for a fair trial and if he didn’t have to shoot Trayvon then he is punished for it. And if he did, that he can go on living a somewhat normal life afterwards. But I’m not in a position to make that decision. At least not until more of the facts come out.
Update 5/7/12: If you are interested in understanding more about the background of the shooting from Zimmerman’s point of view you can read this article from Reuters. It describes more about Zimmerman’s background and the crimes that were happening in the neighborhood previous to the shooting.
Update 4/11/12: Today Zimmerman was charged with murder in the second degree. It is my hope that the facts of the story are proven and Zimmerman is offered a fair trial based on those facts–not perception, whatever those facts may be. Read more here.
Author Note: There are many “facts” in this post, a lot of which are under dispute or are not confirmed. As I mentioned before, my point is not to determine the innocence or guilt of Zimmerman or Martin, but to illustrate what can happen when you use your firearm. I spent hours researching these incidents and did my best to portray incidents as dictated by the various sources, but if there is a confirmed fact that is wrong feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with source information and I’ll take a look.