A Florida prosecutor filed a murder charge on Wednesday against the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed unarmed, black teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that has captivated the United States and prompted civil rights demonstrations.
George Zimmerman, 28, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Martin, according to Angela Corey, the special prosecutor appointed by Florida’s governor to investigate the racially charged case.
Corey said at a news conference on Wednesday that Zimmerman turned himself in to authorities, who then arrested him. He remains in police custody.
Zimmerman, who is white Hispanic, said he acted in self-defense during a confrontation in a gated community in the central Florida city of Sanford on Feb. 26. Police declined to arrest Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force when they believe they are in danger of getting killed or suffering great bodily harm.
The shooting that took place 45 days ago received only scant local media attention at first and went unnoticed nationally until Martin’s parents and lawyers kept making public calls for Zimmerman’s arrest, eventually leading to a fire storm of media coverage, and celebrity tweets, and a comment from President Barack Obama: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
The disputed facts of the case have been picked apart endlessly by television commentators while dominating the headlines and reigniting a national discussion about guns, self-defense laws and what it means to be black in America.
Zimmerman went into hiding shortly after the shooting.
Zimmerman’s relatives and supporters say he is not racist and has been unfairly vilified. They said he feared for his life during his altercation with Martin and was justified in using deadly force.