A full 45 days after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in a gated community in Florida, the man who killed him is being charged with second-degree murder by a special prosecutor appointed by the governor of Florida.
George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the teenager, has been taken into custody, although his location was not disclosed for his safety.
Trayvon's parents were relieved by the news. "We just wanted an arrest and we got it," said Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, at a news conference after the charges had been publicly announced. "Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus."
Though the arrest offers some solace to the family, Rev. Al Sharpton made clear the family was seeking justice and not revenge. “There is no victory here. They’ve lost their son. This is not about gloating. This is about pursuing justice. This is not a night for celebration. It is a night that never should have happened.”
Special prosecutor Angela Corey spoke with Trayvon's parents earlier in the day to let them know of her decision to charge Zimmerman.
“It is the search of justice for Trayvon that has brought us to this moment,” she said. “We did not come to this decision lightly. It is Trayvon's family who are the constitutional victims."
The severity of the charge is likely to ease the growing national outcry that has grown dramatically in the last few weeks for the arrest of Zimmerman.
Zimmerman has maintained he was acting in self-defense, asserting that Trayvon Martin had assaulted him. That led to a nationwide discussion of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows people to shoot in self-defense if they feel their lives have been threatened.
Zimmerman's new attorney, Mark O'Mara, said his client plans to plead not guilty when he appears in court in the next 24 hours. If convicted, the 28-year-old could get up to life in prison.
Corey said she was compelled to charge Zimmerman after having launched “an intensive investigation.... We did not come to this decision lightly. We will continue to seek the truth in this case.”
But there has been a national outrage regarding the shooting and, more pointedly, the fact that Zimmerman had not been arrested until now. The parents of the teenager have pointed out that their son was walking through the gated community in the suburb of Orlando, with a bag of Skittles candy and a can of iced tea, hardly a match for Zimmerman's 9-millimeter handgun.
The case led to widespread protests and rallies around the country by supporters of Trayvon's family and calling for Zimmerman's arrest.
The outcry over the death of the unarmed teenager has grown into a nationwide crescendo, with strong reactions from college students, civic groups, Black fraternities and sororities to the highest reaches of government.
In fact, before the charges against Zimmerman were announced, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department would take appropriate action if the evidence had determined that a criminal civil rights crime had been committed.
"I also can make you another promise," Holder said, speaking to the convention of the National Action Network. "At every level of today's Justice Department — preventing and combating youth violence and victimization is, and will continue to be, a top priority."
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(Photos from left: AP Photo/Sanford Police Department, Courtesy Facebook)
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