The details of the Feb. 26 shooting remain sketchy. Police say George Zimmerman, a cop wannabe and self-appointed, armed neighborhood watchman called a police dispatcher to report a shady character hanging around his apartment community.
When he began following the “suspect” the dispatcher told Zimmerman not to, recordings reveal. Next, screams for help were heard on another police recording and then gun shots.
The episode brought to mind a novel I published in 2008, “Where Law Ends,” a title that might also fit for the Trayvon Martin case.
I tell the fictionalized story of the Montana Vigilantes who conducted a vicious reign of terror in a remote corner of the American frontier in 1863.
Like Zimmerman, the vigilantes of old were self-appointed. They considered themselves upstanding citizens whose duty it was to maintain law and order even though a sheriff had been duly elected for that purpose.
So the vigilantes kept a sharp eye out for those they considered disreputable. When they spotted one, they might banish the “offender” but more often than not, they just threw a stout rope over a tree limb and strung their victim up.
It wasn’t crime the Montana Vigilantes were worried about when they policed Virginia City and Bannock, although that was their excuse. It was the presence of foreigners, drunkards, suspected criminals and “undesirables” attracted to the wild gold mining camps of the region.
Along comes George Zimmerman 150 years later in the truest gun-slinging vigilante tradition. Last year he called the local police nearly 50 times to report suspicious goings on and people, most of whom were black. “Undesirables,” as the vigilantes might have said.
Trayvon Martin was just a 17-year-old high school student who apparently got into some trouble at school. It happens to a lot of kids. It happened to me and probably you. He was minding his own business, walking to his home after buying candy, wearing a hooded sweatshirt because it was raining, not that any of this should matter.
What made Trayvon suspicious was that he was “WWB,” walking while black.
Sanford police should have arrested Zimmerman immediately after the killing of Trayvon, and they should have conducted a thorough investigation of the shooting. They did neither.
Zimmerman, whose father is a retired judge, was released after he gave police his account of what happened. Case closed, or so the cops and Zimmerman hoped.
I was mesmerized by Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, who, at a news conference following the arrest of George Zimmerman, said, “A heart has no color.” That might be a better title for whatever book comes out of this near miscarriage of justice.
Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, must have agreed with her because he told Trayvon’s parents, “We have to get this right” when he met with them just before he appointed special prosecutor Angela Corey to investigate the case.
Corey admitted at her news conference that “information (about the shooting) was leaked that should have never been released,” alluding to Sanford police wrongdoing, compounding a botched and maybe racially biased case.
So now it comes down to a trial or a plea bargain, which really isn’t the point. What matters now is that justice will be served for Trayvon Martin and his family. Some 45 days after prosecutors say he was murdered.
Kevin Foley is an author, writer and public relations executive who lives in Kennesaw.