Trayvon Martin case: Relief, hope in Sanford, Fla., after Zimmerman charged
With second-degree murder charges filed Wednesday against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, residents in Sanford, Fla., scene of the alleged crime, perceive that a crisis has passed.
Emotions of grim satisfaction mixed with doses of celebratory approval circulated throughout pockets of Sanford Wednesday evening, as news traveled through town that neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was in custody and staring down charges of second-degree murder for shooting and killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was walking home from a convenience store on Feb. 26 when the fateful encounter occurred.Skip to next paragraph
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Six tense weeks had elapsed since Trayvon's death, which spurred a national conversation about gun rights and the self-defense laws that were blamed for delaying Mr. Zimmerman's arrest, the history of race relations in the central Florida city where it all took place, and what many saw as the racial profiling of a black teen in a hoodie.
Sitting on a cushioned bench of the W. 13th Street Barbershop in Goldsboro, the historically black part of Sanford, Fla., Lateshia Rollins called up her friend and told her to get to a television. State Attorney Angela Corey in Jacksonville was minutes away from announcing the charges against Zimmerman.
“This ain’t April Fool’s Day. Look on the news!” Ms. Rollins said into her cellphone. She watched on TV as Ms. Corey told the assembled reporters that she and her team did not come to this decision lightly: “Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by pressure or petition.”
When Corey finished her entire statement, Rollins clapped. “I am very, very happy,” but, “they should have done it since Day 1.”
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The charges didn’t make all residents, officials, and business owners as openly happy as Rollins. But a feeling that Sanford had emerged from a period of crisis and back to one of normalcy was a common reaction.
Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett, at a press conference outside of City Hall Wednesday evening, expressed relief that this bridge had been crossed. And City Manager Norton Bonaparte said the charge proves that the justice system “takes time,” but it works.
The two addressed a phalanx of television and print journalists who asked questions about Zimmerman’s whereabouts (they don’t know), whether the police chief who temporarily stepped down last month, Bill Lee Jr., would be fired (there will be an independent investigation before that decision is made), and what steps the city was taking to lead a healing process among residents (they are being assisted by the US Department of Justice’s community relations staff in figuring out a plan).