President Obama: 'The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy for America'

George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin. In a statement Sunday, President Obama said, 'I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.'

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
Sam Hill, 11, wipes away tears during a youth service at the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford, Fla. In a statement Sunday, President Obama called the death of Trayvon Martin a tragedy and called on the nation for calm.

President Obama on Sunday afternoon issued a statement about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, calling for "calm reflection" following "a tragedy for America."

On Saturday night, Mr. Zimmerman was found not guilty following a jury trial and 17 months of public debate and considerable anguish over what’s been seen as a tragedy involving race, civil rights, criminal justice, and America’s gun culture. (Trayvon Martin was black; Zimmerman’s parents are white and Hispanic, and he was legally carrying a pistol.)

Until now, the President’s only notable comment on the shooting death of the black teenager came last year when he said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin.” In his statement Sunday, Obama makes no direct reference to Zimmerman, who still may face civil charges and an investigation by the US Justice Department under civil rights law.

Here’s Obama’s full statement:

The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.  And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.

As the Zimmerman trial approached, and in its immediate aftermath, law enforcement officials warned of and then prepared for any disruptive or violent protests.

There was minor vandalism in Oakland, Calif., and a few other cities. But for the most part, rallies and other events remained peaceful Sunday.

The Sanford Pastors Connecting, an alliance of Seminole County, Florida, churches formed after the shooting, said it is sponsoring the noon prayers Monday to promote peace and unity in the community, USA Today reported.

"Our call is to pray for our community for the long-term unity, peace and strength of relationships," said the Rev. Charlie Holt of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Lake Mary. "Our churches welcome any and all to come and offer prayer to the Lord for ourselves, for all involved and for our community."

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