A former homicide detective says that with the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, Florida has made it legal to kill black kids like Trayvon Martin but not dogs.
Former Washington, D.C. Police Department homicide investigator Rod Wheeler, now a Fox News contributor, explained on Tuesday that the “Stand Your Ground” law was really the “Make My Day” law, referring to a scene where Dirty Harry — played by Clint Eastwood — threatens to kill a man robbing a diner instead of retreating.
“The police department in [Sanford, Florida] oppose that law,” Wheeler told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade. “What that law is saying in the state of Florida — and look at the case law — you can actually shoot a dog. It happens all the time. You can shoot a kill a dog and get arrested and put in jail, but if you kill a kid — and especially a black kid in Florida — you can walk away. That’s what that law means.”
As head of neighborhood watch for The Retreat at Twin Lakes, George Zimmerman had called police in February to report 17-year-old Martin as a suspicious person, but by the time the officers arrived, the young man was already dead.
According to reports, police said Martin had been returning from a local store with Skittles and an iced tea.
Zimmerman claimed he had been forced to use his 9mm handgun shoot Martin in self-defense.
Tapes from 911 dispatchers later revealed that Zimmerman had been told not to pursue Martin. While the teen did not have a criminal record, Zimmerman had been charged in 2005 with “resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer.” Those charges were later reduced to simple battery, and a plea deal allowed him to carry a concealed weapon.
A profile by The Miami Herald described Zimmerman as someone who was “fixated on crime and focused on young, black males.” He had called police at least 46 times since January 1, 2011.
For his defense, Zimmerman is relying on the so-called “Stand Your Ground” law, which Florida became the first state to pass in 2005, expanding self-defense zones to most public places. As The Christian Science Monitor noted, the law does away with the English Law concept of a “duty to retreat.”
“Welcome to the Sunshine State,” Florida criminal defense attorney Eric Schwartzreich told Fox News on Tuesday. “The heat we’re packing here, it’s not sunshine, it’s firearms. We call this the ‘Shoot First and Ask Questions Later’ law. Someone has a right to defend themselves and stand their ground.”
On Monday, Sabrina Fulton told NBC’s Matt Lauer that Martin, her son, was only shot and killed by Zimmerman because he was an African American.
“He was reacting to the color of his skin,” Fulton explained. “[Martin] committed no crime. My son wasn’t doing anything but walking on the sidewalk.”
Attorney Ben Crump also told Lauer that although Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law” makes it legal to use deadly force without first retreating, “Zimmerman has no legal recourse” in this case.
“Zimmerman got out of his car, did not listen to the police and chased this kid,” Crump said. “You can’t chase somebody and then claim self defense. Trayvon Martin had a bag of Skittles, Matt. [Zimmerman] had a 9mm gun. He was almost 80 pounds more weight than Trayvon Martin.”
“Everybody in America is asking, ‘When are they going to arrest Zimmerman for killing this kid in cold blood?’” he added.
In a statement released on Monday night, the U.S. Department of Justice announced they were opening an investigation into the case.
“The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation,” Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in the press advisory.
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