Saturday, March 24, 2012

Suspect in Florida race shooting has Hispanic heritage

SANFORD, Florida: The crime watch volunteer accused of shooting an unarmed black teenager to death in this Florida town has a name suggesting that he could be of German ancestry. The truth is more complicated.

George Zimmerman, 28, allegedly shot and killed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin in a gated neighbourhood of Sanford, Florida on February 26.

Zimmerman is widely described as a white man, but the one-time Catholic altar boy "is Hispanic and grew up in a multiracial family," his father said in a letter to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

"He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever," 64 year-old Robert Zimmerman wrote. "The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth."

George Zimmerman claimed that he acted in self-defence after a confrontation with the teenager. He has been neither detained nor charged with any crime.

At The Retreat at Twin Lakes, the gated community where Martin was shot dead, few people seemed to know anything about the Zimmermans. Neighbours interviewed by AFP were unable to physically identify George Zimmerman.

"I know the mother is not Puerto Rican or Mexican, but she is Hispanic," a community resident told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The suspect's mother, Gladys Zimmerman, was a court interpreter in Virginia and is of Peruvian origin, the Washington Post reported Friday, cited a former colleague.

Former neighbours in northern Virginia, where the suspect grew up, described the family of three children as being devout Catholics, according to the Post.

Following police advice George Zimmerman has not talked publicly about the incident, father said.

Court records uncovered by US media show that Zimmerman was accused of domestic violence in 2002 and 2006, but in both cases he claimed that his girlfriends at the time attacked him.

On Friday Seminole State College, where Zimmerman has been taking classes since 2003, announced that it took "the unusual but necessary step ... to withdraw Mr. Zimmerman from enrolment" due to "the highly charged and high-profile controversy," the college said in statement.

"This decision is based solely on our responsibility to provide for the safety of our students on campus as well as for Mr. Zimmerman," Seminole State said.

The Zimmermans have moved out of the gated community, at least temporarily, due to death threats, Robert Zimmerman said.

What happened that night was "tragic... and very sad for all concerned," Robert Zimmerman wrote. "The Martin family, our family and the entire community have been forever changed."

The victim, Trayvon Martin, was in his last year of high school in Miami, 400 kilometres south of Sanford,
where he lived with his mother. The teen was in the gated Sanford community visiting his father the night of the fatal shooting.

"At no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin. When the true details of the event became public, and I hope that will be soon," the letter said, "everyone should be outraged by the treatment of George Zimmerman in the media."

The media crush in the gated community was such that neighbours hired a uniformed security guard to control access.

"Honestly, the truth is that I never saw him. I even don't know who he is," said Angel Hicks, 40, a community resident and Sanford public school teacher.

"This was an isolated case, very sad but isolated, we live very quiet here," she said.

According to Hicks, who is black, half of the community residents are white and the rest are African-American, Latino and Asian. "I've never felt racial issues here," she told AFP, "but I think in the case of Trayvon Martin the racial factor played a role."

As she spoke Hicks placed a teddy bear in a makeshift altar at the community entrance in the victim's memory.

View the original article here
Source From Channel News Asia

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