Katie Zerr: Was Zimmerman the aggressor in Sanford?
Florida is once again the center of national attention as the country deals with the results of a kid being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On the night of Feb. 26, Trayvon Martin, 17, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, walked to a convenience store in Sanford, Florida. A short time later he was shot and killed by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman.
These are the facts about the shooting of the unarmed teenager in an Orlando suburb last month.
Much of what happened that night is the center of a dispute about the case that has gripped the nation.
The center of the disput is that Zimmerman was questioned, but never arrested for the shooting. His story of self-defense was backed up by evidence at the scene and there was not enough evidence to prosecute, according to reports.
Evidence shows there was a fight and Zimmerman may have had to use his weapon to protect himself against Martin.
The question here may not be whether there was a fight between the two, but whether Zimmerman had the right to follow another person with a gun and to use that gun according to the law in Florida.
As we learned what happened, the the major issue is whether Zimmerman initiated the confrontation by following Martin after he was told not to by a police dispatcher.
The incident began when Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious person. He described Martin as black and said he was acting strangely and could have been on drugs. He told the dispatcher that something was wrong with Martin.
Zimmerman said he got out of his SUV and followed Martin on foot.
A 911 call shows that Martin turned to confront Zimmerman who was following on foot.
What happened next according to Zimmerman is that Martin attacked him. He said he feared for his safety and during the scuffle, in which he said Martin was beating his head against the sidewalk, Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.
Under Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law, the evidence on whether Zimmerman was lawful in the incident is debatable.
More than 20 states have similar laws, most designed so people have the right to defend their homes, their family and themselves from those who intend harm.
The question here is whether or not Zimmerman, who was a frequent caller to the Sanford police, was the person who caused the incident and aggression towards him.
Does Florida law give Zimmerman the right to leave his vehicle and follow Martin on foot? What was he planning to do? What was the purpose of following Martin?
That in itself is cause for alarm. The teen was not in his home neighborhood. He was being followed by an older male he did not know, who had been following him in a vehicle.
This action needs to play an important role in the investigation.
Zimmerman may have been forced to use the weapon to defend himself, but his actions made him the aggressor.
Martin may have thought he was defending himself from abduction or a number of other frightening scenarios.
None of this will be made clear, as the other side of the story can never be told.
Florida law may protect Zimmerman and his claim of self-defense, but is it right that he could follow that teen?
Do we not have the right to walk to a store and back without someone following with a weapon in hand? Zimmerman stepped out of his role of neighborhood watch and into a role of aggressor when he got out of his car and followed Martin on foot. That was his big mistake.
Is it a good deed gone bad?
It might be just that, but a young man lost his life, parents lost a son and the people of the country have lost a little more trust in one another.
– Katie Zerr –