Now, the officer has responded in an online video, suggesting that he brought the pictures as a "no-shoot training aid," and that he might be a pawn in a broader conspiracy to bring down the chief of the Port Canaveral Police Department.
So what began as a national upwelling of outrage at what appeared to be an appalling piece of judgment has now seemingly become a nationwide airing of a squabble within one small Florida police department.
It is a reminder of the power and speed of the Internet to ruin – and perhaps resuscitate – reputations all within the space of a weekend. With his video response, the accused officer, Ron King, has taken his case directly to a nation of YouTubers, putting pressure on Port Canaveral to disprove his assertions and justify his firing – all while an attendant America watches and judges.
Because Port Canaveral police oversee the port, not any municipality, it was the Port Authority's CEO, Jim Walsh, who announced Mr. King's firing Friday. "Whether it was his stupidity or his hatred, [this is] not acceptable," Mr. Walsh said, according to news reports.
But King's video rebuttal Sunday portrays him as the victim. In it, he admitted to buying targets that show gun crosshairs on a black hooded sweatshirt with Skittles in one pocket and an iced tea in one hand – which is what Trayvon was wearing, and what he had gone to a convenience store to buy, when he was shot. But as a firearms-safety trainer for more than 20 years, King said he saw it as a potential training tool.
"While others have used it as a novelty, I view it as a tool for scenario-based firearms training," he said.
At another point in the video, he said: "As an instructor in the law enforcement field, I can tell you that using real-life situations as a training scenario is not uncommon."
His purpose, he added, was to "look for training methods to prevent another such situation."
In the video, he apologizes to the Martin family, suggesting that others are using "the Martin family and myself as a way to further their own political and career agendas."
The person who reported him doesn't like the chief of the department, King said.
"I cannot help but think that he is using this in order to try to shed bad light on the chief in an effort to further that agenda," he added.
Of course, the video proves nothing. Media reports suggest that King's firing came after an internal investigation, and details of that investigation might come to light in coming days – or hours.
But in his video, King has circumvented lawyers or handlers to take his case directly to the American people. While the quality is clearly homemade, the statement has all the trappings of official press statements – King reads from a prepared script and at one point waves pieces of paper that he said are "copies of the statements made by the complaining party and a witness" proving that he said the targets were a "no-shoot training aid."
A USA Today report suggests Walsh was unmoved. "I found the entire situation unacceptable," he said. "It is not the type of behavior that I want a police officer to have on both a personal and professional level."
Trayvon was killed by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman on Feb. 26, 2012. Mr. Zimmerman says he was attacked and shot Trayvon in self-defense. The Martin family notes that Trayvon was unarmed and says Zimmerman is at fault. Zimmerman faces a charge of second-degree murder. The trial is expected to begin this June.