As the investigation of the shooting death of the teenager Trayvon Martin by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman goes forward in Florida, news accounts are reporting a toll of shootings, knifings and other violent homicides in which the state’s dangerous Stand Your Ground law was successfully claimed as a defense.
The killings included domestic disputes, barroom brawls and drug violence, according to The Tampa Bay Times, which surveyed 130 cases in which the 2005 law has been invoked. Seventy percent of the cases involved a fatality; more than half of the cases did not have to go to trial.
So far, that is the laissez-faire situation in the Trayvon Martin slaying. The civilian shooter, George Zimmerman, ignored a 911 dispatcher’s instructions, tracked the teen he found suspicious, unholstered his gun and fired — and then claimed immunity under the law. With the boy dead, Mr. Zimmerman was taken at his word when he claimed that his life was threatened in a confrontation.
The victim was unarmed, walking back from a store. A videotape of Mr. Zimmerman’s arrival handcuffed at the local police headquarters shows none of the cuts and bruises he claimed resulted from an attack by the teenager. Audio experts have been asked to analyze police tapes of screams from the scene and a possible racial epithet uttered by Mr. Zimmerman about the black teenager. ...
Mr. Zimmerman’s gated community, a 260-unit housing complex, sits in a racially mixed suburb of Orlando, Fla. Mr. Martin’s “suspicious” profile amounted to more than his black skin. He was profiled as young, loitering, non-property-owning and poor. Based on their actions, police officers clearly assumed Mr. Zimmerman was the private property owner and Mr. Martin the dangerous interloper. After all, why did the police treat Mr. Martin like a criminal, instead of Mr. Zimmerman, his assailant? Why was the black corpse tested for drugs and alcohol, but the living perpetrator wasn’t?Across the United States, more than 10 million housing units are in gated communities, where access is “secured with walls or fences,” according to 2009 Census Bureau data. Roughly 10 percent of the occupied homes in this country are in gated communities, though that figure is misleadingly low because it doesn’t include temporarily vacant homes or second homes. Between 2001 and 2009, the United States saw a 53 percent growth in occupied housing units nestled in gated communities.Another related trend contributed to this shooting: our increasingly privatized criminal justice system. The United States is becoming even more enamored with private ownership and decision making around policing, prisons and probation. Private companies champion private “security” services, alongside the private building and managing of prisons.“Stand Your Ground” or “Shoot First” laws like Florida’s expand the so-called castle doctrine, which permits the use of deadly force for self-defense in one’s home, as long as the homeowner can prove deadly force was reasonable. Thirty-two states now permit expanded rights to self-defense.In essence, laws nationwide sanction reckless vigilantism in the form of self-defense claims. A bunker mentality is codified by law.Those reducing this tragedy to racism miss a more accurate and painful picture. Why is a child dead? The rise of “secure,” gated communities, private cops, private roads, private parks, private schools, private playgrounds — private, private, private —exacerbates biased treatment against the young, the colored and the presumably poor.
..............................................George Zimmerman seems to have taken a private vow to protect and defend — but, for some reason, he has not realized his stated desire to become a police officer. (In 2009, though, he was accepted into Seminole County’s Community Law Enforcement Academy, in which students take tours of the courthouse and jail, go on ride-alongs with sheriff’s department employees and visit a firing range.)“I don’t think it was safety that he was concerned with as much as people’s rights and people’s welfare,” his father said. “And where he was living has a lot of problems with people coming in and burglarizing. I think he became alarmed, and he helped organize the neighborhood watch.”Police records over the last several years suggest a man who was quite familiar with 911 dispatchers; who seemed, somehow, to be always in the middle of things. In October 2003, for example, on perhaps his greatest day in civic vigilance, Mr. Zimmerman chased after and assisted in the capture of a man who had stolen two 13-inch TV/DVD players from an Albertsons.Mostly, though, his calls were less exciting, more anticipatory. Dangerous potholes. Stray dogs. Speeding vehicles. Open garage doors. Suspicious characters. On Feb. 2, he reported seeing a black man in a black leather jacket and printed pajamas in the Retreat; nothing came of it.This is what George Zimmerman did. ...“Hey, we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood,” Mr. Zimmerman said to start the conversation with the dispatcher. “And there’s a real suspicious guy.”This guy seemed to be up to no good; like he was on drugs or something; in a gray hoodie. Asked to describe him further, he said, “He looks black.”“Now he’s just staring at me,” he said.The incomplete knowledge of the next six minutes, from about 7:11 to about 7:17, comes from recorded 911 calls; a few witnesses who often heard more than saw; Mr. Zimmerman’s account, as told to others; the police account, as told to the Martin and Zimmerman families; and a 16-year-old girlfriend in Miami who was on the telephone at the time with Trayvon.Mr. Zimmerman told the dispatcher that this “suspicious guy” was in his late teens, with something in his hands. He asked how long it would be before an officer arrived, because “These assholes, they always get away.”Mr. Zimmerman’s father said that what largely aroused his son’s suspicion was how this person was walking close to the town houses, and not on the sidewalk or in the street. Perhaps someone up to no good — or, perhaps, someone disoriented in a maze of identical structures, ducking the rain and looking for the house he had left less than an hour before.Around the same time, Trayvon told the girlfriend he was talking to by cellphone that somebody was watching him, according to Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Trayvon’s family. The lawyer said that the girl, whose name has not been released, said she told Trayvon to run — and that Trayvon responded by saying: “I’m going to walk fast.”Mr. Zimmerman told the dispatcher that the hooded figure was now running. He jumped out of his car to follow him, the beep-beep of his car, as recorded on the 911 call, announcing the instant that he moved beyond his understood mandate as neighborhood watch coordinator.The wind could be heard whooshing through Mr. Zimmerman’s cellphone as he tried to keep the visitor in view. Also heard is a garbled epithet that some have interpreted to be a racial slur, though his father insisted that his son would never say anything like that. Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”Mr. Zimmerman: “Yeah.”Dispatcher: “O.K., we don’t need you to do that.”Mr. Zimmerman: “O.K.”He and the dispatcher arranged for Mr. Zimmerman to meet a police officer near the mailboxes at the development’s clubhouse, and the call ended with a “thank you” and a “you’re welcome.”Some of what happened next, along a poorly lighted path that runs between the back ends of two long rows of town houses, is lost to the night.According to what the girlfriend has told Mr. Crump, Trayvon asked the man why he was following him, and the man responded by asking what Trayvon was doing there. She said she heard what sounded like the earpiece to Trayvon’s cellphone falling away before the line went dead. There was no answer when she tried calling back. ...Sanford police have said that once Mr. Zimmerman declared that he had shot Trayvon in the chest in self-defense, they were barred from arresting him by the state’s now-famous Stand Your Ground law, the broadest protection of self-defense in the country. It immediately requires law enforcement officials to prove that a suspect did not act in self-defense, and sets the case on a slow track. ...For example, the lawyers said that, as of late last week, no investigator had interviewed Trayvon’s girlfriend. ...
The fatal flaw in Florida-style gun lawsTrayvon Martin had it coming, or so we will soon be led to believe. The surely unattractive details of his short life as a black man in America will tumble forward—his troubles in school, the weed baggie that got him suspended, the altercation in which police and George Zimmerman claim he was the aggressor. He was a maladjusted, Negro man-child, so ferocious he could kill an armed man with his bare hands. He had to die. ...On Monday, local law enforcement offered a preview of this old, familiar narrative when someone leaked Zimmerman’s account of the night to the Orlando Sentinel. According to the Sentinel, Zimmerman had given up his hunt of Martin and was returning to his SUV when the 17-year-old caught him by surprise. Do you have a problem, Martin is said to have asked, before answering for himself, “Well, you do now.” He reportedly began pummelling Zimmerman, leading the armed man to shoot and kill. Sadly, it’s necessary to point out that there isn’t an imaginable scenario in which an armed man can shoot an unarmed child to death and it be okay. But set that obvious fact to the side. Trayvon Martin did in fact have it coming. He was born black and male in the United States and was thus marked for death. ...Of course, this violent manifestation of white supremacy is not visited upon black male bodies alone. Indeed, as Tea Party candidates like Nevada’s Sharron Angle reminded us in the past election cycle, we must very much begin to see Latinos in the same way—lurking, dangerous, illegal. Fear and loathe them. If you encounter them on a dark street be ready to go to arms. And so Latino men have a lengthening gruesome roll call, too.
Surely all these people have done something to bring the murder, the poverty, the brutality down upon themselves! That’s America’s unique twist on systemic oppression. We cage people, then call them animals. We starve people, then jibe them for being malnourished. We write laws that allow people to gun down unarmed children and then make the child the aggressor. And so now Trayvon Martin will be all manner of sinner—a pothead, a dropout, a ne’er-do-well with a temper problem who had it coming. But what he will indisputably be is dead, like too many before him and surely many after him. He had it coming, as a black man in America.
The gated community mentality
In the eye of a firestorm
The Trayvon Martin had it coming narrative
Compare with this incident - After police shooting of Pasadena student 911 caller arrested ... involuntary manslaughter - it's not taxing to join some dots and wonder how this is any different; except that the Martin killing is protected by a law that allows people to shoot, claim they were 'standing their ground', then figure out a story to match.