By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D) from Selma said in a written statement that she was pleased that the Justice Department has launched an investigation into the Trayvon Martin slaying. Rep. Sewell was participating in a House Judiciary Committee briefing on racial profiling and hate crimes.
Rep. Sewell said, “Today I joined my Democratic colleagues in a House Judiciary Committee briefing to examine the issues surrounding the Trayvon Martin case and to discuss racial profiling and hate crime issues. I applaud my colleagues, this Administration and the millions of Americans for insisting that justice is served in the Martin case.” “I am pleased that the Justice Department has launched an investigation into this matter to determine if any federal civil rights have been violated.”
Congresswoman Sewell continued, “The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ring clear, ‘the time is always ripe to do what is right.’ The time is right for law enforcement to zealously pursue the true facts of this case. The time is right for this country to acknowledge the systematic societal threat against our black boys and men. And the time is right for communities around this country to unite and invest in our nation’s most precious resource, our youth.”
“We must commit ourselves to working together to institute preventative measures to ensure that tragic events like this one do not happen again,” Rep. Sewell concluded.
On February 26th 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by self-appointed Neighborhood Watch Captain George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Martin was Black and Zimmerman is Hispanic adding a racial component to the killing. According to an account by the Orlando Sentinel, Martin was visiting his father’s fiancé so was new to the community. The 17 year old was walking back from a store where he purchased skittles. George Zimmerman spotted Martin walking through the Retreat at Twin Lakes. Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious person. He said Martin was black, was acting strangely and could have been on drugs. Then Zimmerman said he got out of his SUV and followed Martin on foot. “Something’s wrong with him,” he told a 911 dispatcher. “Yep. He’s coming to check me out. He’s got something in his hands.” Martin started to run. A 911 dispatcher asked Zimmerman if he was following Martin, and Zimmerman said he was. The dispatcher said Zimmerman did not need to do that. Zimmerman said he lost sight of Martin and then began walking back to his SUV when Martin approached him. Zimmerman says that Martin asked him if he had a problem. Then Zimmerman said no and reached for his cell phone. Then Zimmerman said Martin attacked him, pinned him to the ground, and then began slamming his head into the sidewalk. The police report described Zimmerman’s back as wet and covered with grass, as though he had been lying on the ground. “I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me,” Zimmerman told the police. The police report said that when they arrived Zimmerman was bleeding out the nose and head and the wet clothe corroborates his version of events. Martin was dead from a gunshot wound to the chest so won’t be testifying to his version. Zimmerman is claiming self -defense. The police received seven 911 calls from the neighbors about the incident.
Mary Cutcher said, “We heard a whining. Not like a crying, boohoo, but like a whining, someone in distress, and then the gunshot,” she said.” When she and her roommate went outside, “Zimmerman was standing over the body with — basically straddling the body with his hands on Trayvon’s back,” Cutcher said. “And it didn’t seem to me that he was trying to help him in any way. I didn’t hear any struggle prior to the gunshot.” “And I feel like it was Trayvon Martin that was crying out, because the minute that the gunshot went off, the whining stopped.”
Zimmerman has not been charged, but there are both state and federal investigation ongoing into the matter. Civil Rights activists charge that young Black males are viewed with suspicion by many in this society and that Zimmerman acted rashly, question his account, say that he was racially profiling Trayvon Martin, and dispute Zimmerman’s claim that the slaying meets the self-defense standard for the state of Florida law. Florida Deputy Attorney General Angela Corley has recently been appointed to study the case. Thousands of protestors across the country and Martin’s parents are demanding that Zimmerman be arrested.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. Republican Don Chamberlain from Selma is challenging her in the November 6th General Election.
To read Rep. Sewell’s statement: