Standing your Ground in Florida and the death of an unarmmed Black Teenager

Florida is a lovely state filled with wonderful people I have enjoyed every visit..  When I first heard about the law in 2005,allowing  citizens who felt threatened or intimidated to used deadly force, I immediately said to myself I wouldn’t be visiting the Sunshine State any time soon.

I am  black,6.4 inches tall and weigh over 300 pounds.  I imagine being lost and asking someone for directions and its all over.   I am sure,there will be some who read this and think  I’m stretching this a bit.  I’ve been stopped more times then I can count for simply driving while black, is yes it can happen.

Recently, I ran out of gas in an affluent neighborhood east of Sacramento, I lifted up the hood on my car and called road service.  Imagine, mysuprise when the police appeared (apparently someone called)  as I was handing the officer my ID, AAA arrived, the officer left.  The tow truck driver seemed hesitant and  asked what was going on?   “wrong neighborhood” I said..

The State of  Florida  2005 ” Justifiable Use of Force  may allow 28 year old George Zimmerman from being charged with the killing of 17 year Trayvon Martin who went to  a 7 Eleven to buy Skittles and Ice Tea during a break in the NBA all star game  Feb 26.

The Florida Law


Use of force in defense of person.

Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.

Use of force in defense of others.

Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.

Use of force by aggressor.

Law enforcement officers; use of force in making an arrest.

Use of force in resisting arrest or making an arrest or in the execution of a legal duty; prohibition.

Use of force to prevent escape.

Forcible felony.

Defense to civil action for damages; party convicted of forcible or attempted forcible felony.

776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.—

(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

(2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or
(b) The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used; or
(c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or
(d) The person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.
(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
(4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

(5) As used in this section, the term:

(a) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.
(b) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest.
(c) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.
History.—s. 1, ch. 2005-27.

The  911 Tapes

The first 911 call is from George Zimmerman the second 911 call is from a neighbor.

 George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman 28, is a resident at  “The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida .  Neighbors in the complex said, when the homeowners association wanted to start a neighborhood watch, only Mr Zimmerman stepped up.   His neighbors said he was passionate about neighborhood security and took it upon himself to do nightly patrols while he walked his dog,    He went door to door in his complex and asked residence to be on the lookout ,specifically black men who appeared to be outsiders.

Mr Zimmerman was licensed to carry a firearm and a student of criminal justice.  The majority of the residence in complex are people of color.  The downturn in the state’s real estate industry,forced  many owners to rent condo to anyone who could pay rent, many tenants believe  the new tenants have increased crime in the gated community.

Police  had been called to the 260 unit complex 402 time from Jan 1,2011 to Feb 26,2011. Records show 50 suspicious-reports , eight burglaries, nine thefts and one other shooting before Trayvon’s death.  46 of the calls were from George Zimmerman.

No one knows what or how Mr Zimmerman earns a living.  The shooting  is troubling to the residence’s,  did the homeowners association or his neighbors know  he carried a gun?   It’s important to say Mr Zimmerman was well liked and respected by  black tenants in the complex.  One black neighbor told the local media. ” She knew everything in the media was untrue and that she would trust George with her life”  Another said “George was the only one, black or white ,who came and welcomed her to the community, offering any assistance he could provide”

The director of the National Neighborhood Watch  programs Chris Turko, say’s Mr Zimmerman violated major principles of the Neighborhood Watch manual. “It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers.  And they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles.    The Sanford Police were not aware Zimmerman was not a registered member at the time of the shooting.

Because Mr Zimmerman said he was acting in self defence, which the Sanford Police Department  said his statements was supported by the physical evidence and his testimony.  They not arrest him.


 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—

(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
(3) The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection
Mistrust of the Sanford Police Department
Much of the tension in the community has to do with the relationship the black community has with the police department.
  Last year, Sanford’s Chief of Police was forced from office following a scandal involving a lieutenant’s son who was captured on video attacking a homeless black man.
Police officers reportedly questioned him but did not arrest him. The officer’s son, Justin Collison 21,later turned himself in after the video surfaced on You Tube.    He was charged in the attack.     His family paid an undisclosed sum to the homeless man.   Collison defense team asked prosecutors to drop the case.   They didn’t, and Collison eventually pleaded no contest and received probation.
In 2005,  security guards Patrick Swofford and Bryan Ansley saw McGill dropping off a group of friends in the parking lot of the apartment complex they were hired to guard, according to published reports. They claimed McGill tried to run them down, and both fired, later claiming self-defense. McGill was pronounced dead at the scene. Swofford was a police department volunteer and Ansley is the son of a former veteran of the force.
Both men were arrested, Swofford was charged with manslaughter and Ansley with firing into an occupied vehicle. A judge later cited lack of evidence and dismissed both cases.  According to autopsy reports , McGrill suffered fatal gunshot wounds to the back  and it was unclear if the pair was in danger.
In the initial interview, Zimmerman said, he was the one screaming in the recording.
The Last Phone Conversation?
Phone records show Travyon Martin was on the phone minutes before his death.    The friend on the phone says  a man cornered him and confronted him.   He put his hoodie up and at one point he thought he lost the man..  But suddenly the man was back.  The caller heard Travyon ask. What are you following me for? and the man said, “What are you doing here?”   Then the caller heard pushing, they believed they pushed Trayvon because his head set fell. The caller tried to call back and was unsuccessful.
Trayon Martin , was returning from the store to his father’s finances home in the complex Zimmerman patrols.
Race, Stereotypes and the Florida Statute
Is George Zimmerman  a racist? , from what I’ve read so far,he doesn’t fit the criteria.  If we are honest we all pre judge.     Dreads, hoodies, Jordens,and for some, those gawd forsaken pant worn below the equator is a look.    Some people associated that look with shady individuals and  crime.   Many black people who have issues with  the look..   This look, is worn by nearly every hue in urban america. However, when worn by people of  color,particularly those with black and brown skin tones, the look becomes threatening or menacing.
Here in Sacramento, reportedly the most integrated city in america, I have witnessed entire  families darting into traffic to avoid contact with people of color wearing the look.    The good news is this is California.  No one can legally shoot because they felt threatened.
What I found disturbing in researching this story,is the number of people being shot in the back and in the rear legs.  I’m far from an expert… being shot in the back or the rear, would indicate the person was fleeing.
If, I were a parent of a teenage child or young adult in the state of Florida, the Zimmerman-Martin Story would frighten me.  particularly if  my child had black, or brown skin.
I’m not sure this incident  alone will make citizens, law makers revisit this law.  There are some who believe Treyvon had to be up to something.   Others who believe Zimmerman want believe his is a racist lying in wait to shoot a black man.   As there are many people who believe Treyvon’s who life seems to be one of honor is the exception, however, other’s who look like him are up to no good.

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