The shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., has gained both national and international attention since it occurred on Feb. 26, and Knox students are divided on the issue of whether the shooting was racially motivated.
Martin was shot and killed by 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a community watch coordinator. Zimmerman is of mixed descent with a Latina-American mother and a white, American father, according to the Washington Post.
As detailed in a March 21 Associated Press article, Martin was walking from a convenience store to the home of his father’s fiancée when Zimmerman began following him while contacting the Sanford Police Department to report Martin’s behavior as suspicious. Soon afterward, they engaged in a confrontation that ended with Zimmerman fatally shooting Martin.
Zimmerman reportedly told Sanford police that he had broken off his surveillance of Martin when the 17-year-old came up to him, punched him in the nose and knocked him to the ground before banging his head into the sidewalk.
According to an initial report by the Sanford Police Department, Zimmerman told police who arrived on the scene that the shooting was in self-defense. Responding officers handcuffed Zimmerman and took him into custody but they did not formally arrest him, saying they did not find evidence to contradict his assertion of self-defense.
The circumstances around Martin’s death are still very perplexing and many believe that the shooting was racially motivated.
Sophomore Tom Courtright said that although he cannot judge Zimmerman’s character, “The facts seem to indicate that Trayvon’s race played a large role in Zimmerman’s decision.”
Sophomore Amanda Shiew agreed with Courtright and said, “There was no other reason for [Zimmerman] to be suspicious of him [Martin],” and “he [Martin] didn’t do anything wrong.”
Freshman Ritah Nantongo believes that the shooting was racially motivated. She said, “They [law enforcement] think that blacks are bad people … because of the stereotypes that they have about black people.”
Freshman Mamma Ackah agreed.
“They found Skittles — they didn’t find a gun. It was because he felt that it was a black kid, so he was dangerous,” she said.
Sophomore Demoz Desta, however, disagreed.
“I don’t think it was racial,” he said. “I think anyone would have done it. It obviously happens everywhere. But I think they’re making a bigger deal out of this.”
Freshman Anushree Kedia said, “I feel like the media has really twisted the facts and have kind of blown it out of proportion. … We just don’t know the whole story. He was 17, which makes it really unfair. It’s an eye opener. People need to be more careful with the race card.”
The case has spurred much debate about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which permits the use of deadly force in self-defense. Some believe the law works, while others say it should be repealed.
Sophomore Chloe Luetkemeyer believes that the law is not applicable in this situation.
“I think it’s great, but I don’t think it belongs,” she said.
Kedia said, “It’s definitely a good law, but it’s cases like this that take advantage of this law. People should not misuse it.”
Sophomore Carli Bogolub said, “I agree with it. It’s your own life, so you should have the right to defend it.”
On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Zimmerman had been taken into custody. He is being charged with second-degree murder.