Gun control advocates say the Florida law that authorizes using deadly force to stop someone from committing a serious crime also encourages violent behavior. NBC's Pete Williams reports.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi said Thursday that they had appointed a new prosecutor to investigate the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and would appoint a committee on citizen safety that would examine the state's "Stand Your Ground" law. Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was killed by a self-described neighborhood watch guard in February.
In a statement, Scott called for the task force “to investigate how to make sure a tragedy such as this does not occur in the future, while at the same time, protecting the fundamental rights of all our citizens – especially the right to feel protected and safe in our state.” He said the task force would look at Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows someone who is being threatened to use deadly force.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll will lead the task force, Scott said. The Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr., the pastor of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, will be its vice chair.
Additionally, Scott and Bondi appointed Angela B. Corey, a state attorney from another part of Florida, to oversee the investigation. Norman Wolfinger, the state attorney who covers Sanford, where the shooting took place, asked to step down from the investigation.
Trayvon Martin was carrying a pack of Skittles and a can of iced tea when George Zimmerman, 28, spotted Martin, a black teen who was walking home from a convenience store at night in a gated community. Zimmerman told police he shot Martin in self-defense after a confrontation.
On Thursday afternoon, a mostly black crowd gathered in a Sanford park to protest against the handling of the Martin case and what black leaders have called a pattern of racial discrimination in Sanford and elsewhere in a country that nonetheless has elected a black president. Mayor Jeff Triplett told NBC News that 20,000 to 25,000 people attended, based on a Parks and Recreation Department estimate.
New York-based civil rights leader Al Sharpton, whose TV show on MSNBC raised the profile of the Sanford shooting, headlined a series of speakers calling for justice.
Cathey Law, 46, a human-resource manager in the crowd, said the shooting had resonated in her family.
"I have a young adult son. In our black community, we have to have that conversation about driving while black and walking while black," Law said. "I hope his (Martin's) murder is not in vain and things change."
Rep. Allen West of Florida, one of two African American Republicans in Congress, issued a statement on Facebook Thursday, criticizing how local police initially handled Martin’s death.
Handout / Reuters
Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot and killed by a self-described neighborhood watch guard in February in Sanford, Fla. The shooter, George Zimmerman, said he shot Martin in self-defense. He has not been charged.
“First of all, if all that has been reported is accurate, the Sanford police chief should be relieved of his duties due to what appears to be a mishandling of this shooting in its early stages,” West said. “The U.S. Navy Seals identified Osama Bin Laden within hours, while this young man laid on a morgue slab for three days.”
He said that he has signed a letter supporting a federal investigation.
“I am not heading to Sanford to shout and scream, because we need responsible entities and agencies to handle this situation from this point without media bias or undue political influences. This is an outrage.”
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said Thursday that he was stepping down temporarily during the investigation.
As people across the country demand justice for Trayvon Martin, the teen who was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla., after leaving a convenience store, the city's police chief said his involvement in the case has become 'a distraction.' NBC's Ron Allen reports.
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