Jonathan Easley and Peter Schroeder, The Hill, March 23, 2012
President Obama has promised a full investigation into the killing of Trayvon Martin, saying Friday, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.
“And I think [Trayvon’s parents] are right to expect all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness that it deserves and that we’re going to get to the bottom of what happened,” Obama said in response to a reporter’s question.
The remarks represented the first time Obama has waded into the controversy surrounding Martin, an unarmed Florida teenager killed weeks ago by a self-identified volunteer neighborhood watchman. The killing has sparked protests around the country and a nationwide debate over race.
“When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened,” the president said in remarks at a Rose Garden ceremony unveiling his nominee for the World Bank.
“Obviously this is a tragedy; I can only imagine what these parents are going through,” he continued. ”I think all of us have to do some soul-searching to figure out, how does something like this happen?”
Just prior to the shooting, Zimmerman called 911 to report what he said was suspicious behavior on behalf of Martin. Zimmerman then began to follow Martin, despite the emergency dispatcher telling him not to do so.
Police questioned Zimmerman but did not arrest him. A Florida state law known as the “stand your ground” law permits citizens to use deadly force when acting in self-defense, but a grand jury is being called to investigate the incident.
Martin’s death has provoked protests and intense media focus, and on Monday students across Florida held rallies calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. On Wednesday protesters in New York City held a “million hoodie march” in honor of the teen, whom many believe was targeted because of his skin color and clothing.
The Department of Justice also has stepped in to investigate the shooting, and the Sanford, Fla., chief of police has stepped down.