In Florida, a grand jury will now look into the killing of an unarmed black teenager. And, after weeks of calls for more investigation of the case, the U.S. Justice Department is also involved. Trayvon Martin was shot to death by a neighborhood watch captain late last month. The shooter, who is Latino, says he acted in self defense. But an attorney for Martin's family provided a different account on Tuesday, saying the teenager thought he was being stalked.
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A grand jury in Florida is going to examine the killing of an unarmed black teenager. That's after weeks of calls for more investigation. And it comes after yesterday's announcement that the Justice Department will look into the death.
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Trayvon Martin was 17. He was shot to death by a neighborhood watch captain late last month. The shooter's family says he's Latino. He says he acted in self-defense, and he has faced no charges. But today, an attorney for Trayvon Martin's family offered a different account. NPR's Kathy Lohr has the story.
KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: Trayvon Martin was walking home from a convenience store, where he bought candy and iced tea. What's been heard so far is George Zimmerman's account of what happened. He's the neighborhood watch captain who called 911 to report a suspicious male. Zimmerman followed the teen, even though the emergency operator told him to stop. After a confrontation, the teen was dead from a single gunshot to the chest. Zimmerman claims Trayvon was the aggressor.
But the family's attorney tells a different story. Benjamin Crump says Trayvon had been talking with a friend on his cellphone for much of the day. Crump says they were talking as Trayvon headed back from the convenience store. And Trayvon told the girl something was wrong that he was being trailed.
BENJAMIN CRUMP: He's trying to look in the car. It was, like, I think this dude is following me.
LOHR: Crump says the friend, who he will not identify, says Trayvon told her he would try to lose the guy, and then she heard this.
CRUMP: Oh, he's right behind me. He's right behind me again. And so she says run. He says I'm not going to run. I'm just going to walk fast. And at that point, she says, Trayvon - she hears Trayvon say why are you following me? And that's when she says she hears the other boy say what are you doing around here?
LOHR: Crump provided the narrative at a news conference today. He says according to the girl the phone went dead, that she never heard a shot. Crump says he'll turn over the information about the call to the Justice Department. He says Trayvon was just a kid trying to get home in the rain.
CRUMP: This claim that Trayvon Martin was the aggressor is preposterous.
LOHR: Federal officials announced late Monday they will look into the case, and a community relations team was dispatched to Sanford to talk with law enforcement authorities and community leaders. Tension is high after the local police decided not to arrest Zimmerman, and no charges were filed. Many in the community say the shooting was racially motivated, and the case has gained national attention over the past week. Students held protests yesterday, and this week, more meetings and rallies are planned.
PASTOR VALERIE HOUSTON: I think we all are saying and feeling the same way. There are a lot of unanswered questions. We want an arrest, and we want justice to prevail.
LOHR: Valerie Houston is a pastor of the Allen Chapel AME Church in Sanford, where a town hall meeting is scheduled tonight. She says the police, the NAACP and city officials are expected to show up.
HOUSTON: And I think the answers that we get tonight will help us to move forward, so we'll know what the next step will be to travel this tedious journey and making sure justice does prevail.
LOHR: Some in the community suggest the local police chief should step down while the investigation continues. One reason police have said they did not arrest Zimmerman is because of the state's stand your ground law. It allows people to use deadly force in self-defense. Under the law, there's no duty to retreat. Zimmerman claimed self-defense, and police have said there's evidence to back that up. Governor Rick Scott issued a statement directing state law enforcement to help in the investigation, and state officials announced a grand jury will meet next month to consider charges in the case.
Meanwhile, more attention is being focused on this small community north of Orlando, and social media has fueled outrage over the Florida shooting. A petition at Change.org demands the prosecution of Zimmerman. Nearly 600,000 people have signed the online petition so far. Kathy Lohr, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.