Sunday 18 March 2018

'I want my gun back' – Trayvon killer says he fears for his life

Philip Sherwell New York and Peter Foster Washington

Now that George Zimmerman has been cleared of all charges in the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, he intends to reclaim the gun he used to shoot dead the unarmed 17-year-old.

According to his lawyer, Mark O'Mara, Mr Zimmerman needs a firearm to protect himself now "even more" than before. He said Mr Zimmerman (29) "feels, truly in his heart, that if he did not have that weapon (on the night of the shooting) he might not be here".

The revelation came as America's top justice official pledged to tackle "the underlying attitudes, mistaken beliefs and stereotypes" behind violence against young people as demands by black leaders grew for Mr Zimmerman to be charged with federal hate crimes.

The comments by Eric Holder, the US attorney general, were his clearest reference to claims that Mr Zimmerman shot dead Trayvon after racially profiling the unarmed black teenager as a possible criminal.

The neighbourhood watch volunteer was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges on Saturday in a controversial verdict that has provoked protests across the US.

Mr Holder, who described Trayvon's killing as "tragic, unnecessary", confirmed that the Justice Department had re-opened a federal investigation into Mr Zimmerman that had been on hold while the court case played out in Florida.

Keta Taylor, center, joins about 500 other demonstrators during a rally and march in support of Trayvon Martin in Birmingham
Keta Taylor, center, joins about 500 other demonstrators during a rally and march in support of Trayvon Martin in Birmingham

Mr Holder's comments seemed to indicate scepticism about Mr Zimmerman's successful self-defence case.

But legal experts said that his department would face major challenges in any attempt to prove that Mr Zimmerman's actions were based on racial discrimination.

Mr Holder tacitly acknowledged those difficulties. But his comments also reflected pressure from civil rights leaders on him and President Barack Obama, who are the first African-Americans to hold their positions.

"We are mindful of the pain felt by our nation surrounding the tragic, unnecessary shooting death of Trayvon Martin," Mr Holder said.

"I want to assure you that the department will continue to act in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law. We are determined to meet division and confusion with understanding and compassion – and also with truth.

"We are resolved to combat violence involving or directed at young people, to prevent future tragedies and to deal with the underlying attitudes, mistaken beliefs and stereotypes that serve as the basis for these too common incidents."

He spoke as leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, the biggest US black rights group, intensified demands for a federal prosecution at a meeting in Orlando, just a 30-minute drive from Sanford, where Trayvon was shot dead.

Al Sharpton, the activist black preacher, said that he would head to Sanford and announced plans for protests in 100 cities this weekend to increase pressure on the Justice Department.

Jay Carney, Mr Obama's spokesman, said that the president would not be involved in the decision on whether to bring federal charges.

On Sunday, Mr Obama called for calm as "we ask ourselves how we can prevent future tragedies like this". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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