By all accounts, he was a typical 17-year-old high school junior. An outgoing young man who was adored by his sister and three brothers, Trayvon Martin had a passion for dirt-bike racing, horseback riding, football, basketball and baseball.
A kid with a love of going to movies, Trayvon had already starting thinking seriously about college, having spent considerable time looking up information about Bethune Cookman University, the University of Central Florida and Florida A&M University. His dream was to become an aviation mechanic.
“He was a good kid who loved all the normal things that a kid his age would love,” said his father, Tracy B. Martin, in an interview with BET.com. “He had a lot of friends, dozens and dozens of friends. He was a good, normal kid.”
It is the very normalcy of Trayvon Martin that has contributed so mightily to a growing national outrage regarding his death. Indeed, from the description by his family and others, Trayvon Martin was a young man whose profile made him seem like the son, brother, cousin or friend common to any family.
And that has added to the horror that many feel when confronted by the story of this average Black 17-year-old armed with nothing more than a package of Skittles at the time he was killed by a white neighborhood watch captain, claiming that the shooting was in self-defense. So far, no arrests have been made.
It is not just that Martin’s death strikes so many as another in a limitless list of killings of young Black men. This particular shooting harkens for many the senselessness of the killings that hearken images of Jim Crow America, where so many promising Black youth lost their lives as a result of the brutality of white officials.
While there are a host of questions regarding the killing, some facts are clear. Martin died in a dark, rainy pathway less than a half hour after a neighborhood watch captain called police saying he thought a young man looked suspicious. The captain told police that the young man was wearing a hoodie and that he was walking slowly and peering into windows in the gated community in a town near Orlando.
The police told the neighborhood watch volunteer to do nothing until they arrived. By the time they had arrived, however, young Martin had been fatally shot, with the shooter, George Zimmerman, insisting that he had acted in self-defense. Since then, neighbors in the gated community told reporters that they had heard young Trayvon crying in the seconds before the gunshot.
After days of no official action, amid waves of calls for an arrest to be made, law enforcement officials in the small suburb of Sanford, FL., turned the case over to the Florida State’s Attorney’s office.
Police officials in Sanford initially told Martin’s family that the watch captain had a “squeaky clean” record. However, the lawyer for the family later said that he had discovered that Zimmerman had been arrested in 2005 in Orange County on charges of resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer.
In the meantime, the family is seeking comfort in remembering Trayvon. His father remembered the time, a few years ago, what Trayvon pulled him out of the house during a grease fire that engulfed the kitchen.
“I was in the kitchen splattered by burning grease and, frankly, disoriented,” Martin said. “Trayvon called 911 and pulled me out of a burning kitchen. I always told him that he was my hero. He saved my life. I just feel mad that I wasn’t there to save his.”
For now, the family is waiting for answers. More than that, they want to see Zimmerman arrested and charged with murder.
“George Zimmerman is at his home,” Trayvon’s father said. “He’s doing fine. And the police are pampering him. The police are acting...like our son is the one who shot Zimmerman. But we’re the ones who buried our son. We’re the ones with the heavy hearts.”
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(Photo: Family Photo)