The city of Sanford, Fla., has a checkered past with race relations. In 1946 Brooklyn Dodger great Jackie Robinson, the first African-American ballplayer in Major League Baseball, was run out of town while attending spring training there because of the color of his skin. On the evening of Feb. 26 of this year a 17-year-old boy, who happened to be black, was walking home alone from a trip to his local 7-Eleven store in Sanford, Fla., to buy some candy and a soft drink. His name was Trayvon Martin.
Trayvon Martin was followed and ultimately confronted by a vigilante named George Zimmerman, who had a known love of firearms and a history of making complaints about suspicious black males in his area. George Zimmerman carried a loaded Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm semi-automatic pistol. Trayvon Martin was unarmed. A scuffle ensued and George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin dead with a single bullet to his chest. The police who arrived on the scene took a brief statement from George Zimmerman and released him along with the weapon involved in the shooting. Although the police had his cell phone, Trayvon Martin was tagged as a John Doe. The following is an open letter to George Zimmerman who to this day has still not been arrested by the Sanford Police Department for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
The events of the evening of Feb. 26, 2012, in which you were involved, tragically ended the life of Trayvon Martin and permanently altered the course of many others. It's astounding when you think of all the people affected by the actions you chose to take that night. Of course there was your victim -- young Trayvon Martin -- his family and friends, schoolmates and teachers. Their pain is immeasurable. But there are also your family and friends who are now facing endless questions and accusations. What kind of family raises such a racist? You're his friend, are you a racist too? What happened in George Zimmerman's life that filled him with so much hate that he could so casually kill someone? Whether those questions are fair or not, you know they are there.
Your neighbors too have been pitted against each other as they grapple with what happened just a few doors down. The police officers who responded and the police chief who failed to pursue charges against you in the face of overwhelming evidence, and their families, are facing their own hard questions. Questions that are certainly justified. These are just the people closest to the incident whose lives have been indelibly linked but thousands of others have been touched by this tragedy as well.
Since there appears to be no eyewitness to the actual shooting and Trayvon Martin can't speak for himself, you are the only person alive who knows the truth, the whole truth, about what happened that awful night. I would love the opportunity to talk with you about those events, to hear the truth in your own words. I have many questions of my own.
Was your heart filled with hate that night or did you simply get in over your head? After being pursued by you for several minutes, did Trayvon Martin stand his ground and confront you wanting to know why you were following him? Did he brandish his can of iced tea and bag of Skittles at you? Did your courage abandon you as you imagined a secret weapon hidden under Trayvon Martin's menacing hoodie? Did it occur to you that hoodlums don't usually walk about with tea and Skittles in their hands or did you think perhaps he had stolen them? Did carrying a loaded gun make you feel empowered? Glamorous? Heroic? What were you thinking when you heard that terrible explosion and realized you had put a bullet in Travon Martin's chest? Was pulling the trigger a conscious decision or the accidental result of a scuffle that would have never occurred had you not left your car? Why didn't you just stay in the damn car and wait for the police? Were you trying to impress them with your Neighborhood Watch skills hoping they would welcome you into the fold?
One thing is certain. If you hadn't been riding around that night playing cops and robbers with a loaded gun in your possession, Trayvon Martin would still be alive and your life would still be as blissfully mundane as it was when you awoke on that fateful day. Once you stepped out of that car you became the aggressor. At that point Trayvon Martin had to decide whether to stand his ground or flee. I guess he should have run.
It seems the most important question for you is was it worth it? Regardless of if you're ever convicted, or even tried for Trayvon Martin's murder, was it worth the fact that you will forever live with the knowledge that you took the life of an innocent young man? Was it worth all of the grief and anguish you've caused Trayvon Martin's family? How about the pain and humiliation your family has suffered? Was it worth the fact that this killing will follow you for the rest of your life, that you will always be “that vigilante guy in Florida”? Every first impression, every job interview, just about every person you ever encounter will remember the name George Zimmerman, and not in a good way. Was it worth the orphaned cries for justice echoing the streets all across America? Was it really worth all that?