I haven't blogged about the shooting of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, because I've found the killing depressingly familiar. For those who haven't kept up, the details are as follows:
Police say Zimmerman called police around 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 to report a suspicious person. The dispatcher told him to wait for patrol officers. At one point, Zimmerman followed the teen, stepped out of the car and they began to fight, Lee said.
"When dispatchers told him not to do anything, it was just a recommendation," Lee said. "There is evidence that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense."
He would not say what the evidence was.
Why Zimmerman got out of the car and what led to the altercation are still unknown. Zimmerman, who had a concealed weapons permit, carried a black Kel Tek 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
Martin's pockets contained $22, Skittles candy and a can of iced tea when he died, police said. The family filed a lawsuit to demand recordings of the conversation between Zimmerman and the police dispatcher.
Police have declined to release the tape until the investigation is concluded.
"They are passing the buck," said family attorney Benjamin Crump. "The entire time he was defending Mr. Zimmerman. But we'll see what will come next."
The theory that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense got me wondering about the threshold for such a claim. As it turns out, Flordia has one of the broadest set of self-defense statutes in the country. Unlike many states, you need not retreat before employing self-defense, for instance. The relevant portions of the law--as much as I can tell--seem to be as follows.
Zimmerman could lawfully shoot Martin if he, "knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred." Know unlawful act had occurred or was occurring. If Zimmerman had "reason to believe" such an act was in progress, the police have declined to cite it. My hope is that the vague charge of looking "suspicious" would not meet that threshold.