George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, faces a second-degree murder charge for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Sanford, Fla., the special prosecutor in the case announced Wednesday.
In a televised news conference, State Atty. Angela B. Corey outlined the charges in the case that has sparked national demonstrations calling for Zimmerman’s arrest.
“I can tell you we did not come to this decision lightly,” Corey told reporters. “We do not prosecute by public pressure.”
She said her office had filed information with the charge.
Zimmerman, who has maintained he acted in self-defense, was in custody, Corey confirmed, though she gave no details. He had been in hiding since the shooting after his family said he had received death threats.
Martin, 17, was returning from a convenience store run on Feb. 26 — he had bought a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea — when he caught Zimmerman’s eye. Zimmerman, 28, was driving out of his gated community in Sanford on his way to the supermarket when he called the Sanford Police Department to report a young black male acting suspiciously, possibly on drugs, he said.
The police dispatcher asked Zimmerman whether he was following the youth. When Zimmerman replied that he was, the dispatcher told him: “We don’t need you to do that.” Moments later, Zimmerman — armed with a 9-millimeter weapon — got out of his car.
Zimmerman has said he shot Martin in self-defense after the youth struck him in the face, knocked him down and began pounding his head into the ground. But many believe Zimmerman was the aggressor, emboldened by his status as the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain.
Coverage of the case was largely limited to local media until the call between Zimmerman and the dispatcher was made public, along with a 911 call that one resident made just before the shooting. In the background of that call, someone can be heard yelling for help. Martin’s parents insist that voice belonged to their son. Zimmerman has said the voice was his.
The phone calls and steady stream of new evidence, not to mention potential evidence, have turned many Americans into armchair CSI experts.