Shooting mystery: Miami-Dade teen killed by a crime watch captain
Undated photo of Tayvon Martin. COURTESY OF FAMILY
BY MONIQUE MADANMMADAN@MIAMIHERALD.COM
Trayvon Martin traveled to Sanford on a trip with his father. The teen returned to his Miami home in a body bag.
Martin, 17, was shot and killed Feb. 26 by a neighborhood crime watch captain.
The circumstances of the shooting are still unknown, but the 26-year-old man who shot Martin, George Zimmerman, gave a statement to police that he shot in self-defense.
Martin’s grieving family said the teen went out around 7:30 on that Sunday during the NBA All-Star Game halftime to get snacks from a nearby 7-Eleven convenience store. He purchased Skittles candies and an Arizona iced tea for his stepbrother.
Somehow, on the way back to the Central Florida townhouse where Martin was staying, he ran into Zimmerman, who was armed with a 9mm handgun, reports said.
Martin was shot once in the chest.
“He had a gun, and Trayvon had Skittles," said Benjamin Crump, the family’s attorney. “We want justice.”
Bill Lee, Sanford’s police chief, said the case is still under investigation and that he was waiting to finalize it before sending it on to the Seminole County state attorney’s office.
“We need to get all the facts and circumstances straight so that we can determine what truly happened,” Lee said.
“We need answers,” Crump said. “The neighborhood watch was supposed to protect him, not kill him.”
Here’s what happened, according to the Sanford police report:
Martin, who was staying at The Retreat at Twin Lakes townhome community, was walking home from the store when he caught the attention of Zimmerman, who began following the teen in his car. At one point, Zimmerman called 911, telling the operator about a "suspicious person in the area."
Soon after the 911 call, Zimmerman and the teen got into an altercation. Police declined to comment on who confronted whom first or what the altercation was about.
Several persons called 911 when they heard shots. It was unclear how many shots were fired. It’s also unclear whether Zimmerman shot him from inside or if he stepped out of the car.
Police found Martin’s body lying on the grass about 70 yards from his family’s home.
He had $22, candy and iced tea in his pockets.
Tracy Martin is demanding answers from police about his son’s death.
“Why isn’t this guy in jail? He said my son was a threat. How was he a threat? I don’t know what he could’ve done to generate that reaction; a 140-pound kid.”
The family’s attorney has asked for the 911 recordings, but police say the case is still under investigation.
The Seminole County state attorney’s office has not yet received the case from police, spokeswoman Lynn Bumpus-Hooper said.
Not much is known about Zimmerman. A listed phone number has been disconnected.
Martin’s family members said police told them Zimmerman was a college graduate with no criminal background.
In the community’s most recent newsletter, he is listed as the contact for those wanting more information the crime watch group.
Laura Mills, the private community’s property manager, declined to comment on Zimmerman’s whereabouts or his status on the watch team.
"When I asked the police why there’s been no arrest, they told me they respected the guy’s background, that he had a four-year degree; that he was clean," Tracy Martin said. “But did they check my unarmed son’s record? No.”
Martin, who lived with his mother in South Florida, was a junior at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in North Miami-Dade, just south of the Broward County line. He was out of school because he had gotten suspended for a week. Tracy Martin would not give details about the suspension, but said he took his son to the Central Florida town, best known as the auto train stop closest to Orlando, “to disconnect and get his priorities straight.”
His cousin Stephen Martin, 20, described him as detail-oriented and a “mastermind with his hands.”
“He would break down a dirt bike and put it back together; then ride it all over the neighborhood,’’ Stephen Martin said.
Lee, Sanford’s police chief, said the neighborhood watch started after the community was hit with several property crimes. The group works directly with police.
“We encourage residents to report any suspicious activity, to not to put it in their own hands,’’ said Lee. “What happened is a tragedy.”
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