Trayvon Martin would have turned 21 on Friday. The 17-year-old Floridian was killed in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman who was later acquitted. The controversial case polarized the nation and gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Three weeks after his 17th birthday, on February 26, Martin was shot and killed in a confrontation with Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Martin was visiting his father and had bought iced tea and Skittles at a convenience store. On his way back through a residential neighborhood, he was followed by Zimmerman, who was armed.
Zimmerman, a part-time student and neighborhood watch captain, called 911 to report a “suspicious person,” describing Martin as wearing a hooded sweatshirt (“hoodie”). He ignored the dispatcher’s instructions to stay in his van and confronted Martin.
When the police arrived, Martin was dead from a gunshot wound to the chest, and Zimmerman was bleeding from his nose and back of head, saying he acted in self defense.
An all-female jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder on July 13, 2013.
“You can’t put the man in jail even though in our hearts we felt he was guilty. But we had to grab our hearts and put it aside and look at the evidence,” one juror told ABC News.
Martin’s death caused outrage with accusations of racial profiling and bias heard across the US and abroad.
On Martin’s birthday, people took to social media to remember the teen and his death.
Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton has set up the Trayvon Martin Foundation to help other families that have lost their children to violence. It gives scholarships and donates college supplies to poor students.
The fourth annual peace walk in Martin’s memory will be held on February 6, across 21 cities in the US.
George Zimmerman did not keep a low profile after the trial. In September 2013, his wife made a 911 call claiming he punched her father and pulled a gun on her. In November of that year, Zimmerman was arrested for threatening and pointing a gun at his girlfriend’s head.
In August of 2015, Zimmerman supported a Florida gun shop owner who banned Muslims from his store. He also called US President Barack Obama a racist and an “ignorant baboon.” In September, Zimmerman retweeted a picture of Martin’s body.
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