- Fiza Pirani The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Twitter users are sharing powerful messages in honor of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African American student who was shot to death in 2012 at the hands of Florida neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.
Monday, Feb. 5, would have been his 23rd birthday.
While visiting relatives, Martin was shot inside the gated Retreat at Twin Lakes community in Sanford, Florida, where Zimmerman, 28, regularly patrolled the neighborhood and was licensed to carry a firearm. Between 2011 and 2012, he had called police multiple times to report suspicious individuals, all of whom were black males.
When Zimmerman called the 911 dispatcher on Feb. 26, he referred to Martin as a “suspicious guy” in a “dark hoodie, a gray hoodie.” During the 911 call, the dispatcher asked Zimmerman if he was following Martin. When Zimmerman replied that he was, the dispatcher said, "We don't need you to do that."
He shot Martin dead after following him for several minutes.
"Had George Zimmerman not left his vehicle and heeded the police dispatcher's guidance, we wouldn't be here today," Martin family spokesperson Ryan Julison told ABC News in 2012.
Zimmerman said he eventually shot Martin during an altercation. When he was killed, Martin wore a black hoodie with a badge showing a picture of his late cousin. He had his cell phone, on which he had been talking to a friend. In his pockets were a bag of Skittles, a cigarette lighter, earphones, a can of Arizona watermelon fruit juice cocktail and about $40 in cash. He had no weapon.
Zimmerman was charged with Martin’s murder, but later acquitted on grounds of self-defense . The Department of Justice found insufficient evidence when investigating for potential civil rights violations.
The acquittal of Zimmerman and shooting death of Trayvon Martin had a galvanizing effect on African-Americans, sparking a national debate on race relations, gun violence and police.
In a personal message delivered from the White House, Former President Barack Obama likened Trayvon Martin to his own children and said, "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
On what would have been his 23rd birthday, many took to social media to “honor and remember” the late teen.