Florida State Attorney Norm Wolfinger announced on March 20, 2012 that a grand jury will investigate the death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old who was shot and killed in a gated community by 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. The Justice Department and FBI has also opened an investigation into the death of the unarmed teenager. Zimmerman has not been charged. Martin is shown in an undated family photo. UPI | License Photo
SANFORD, Fla., March 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department said Monday it will investigate the slaying of Sanford, Fla., teenager Trayvon Martin, by a Neighborhood Watch volunteer.
Martin, 17, a student at Michael Krop Senior High School, was on suspension from school and had been staying at his father's girlfriend's house when he was killed Feb. 26, after walking to a convenience store and buying a can of ice tea and a bag of candy. The volunteer, George Zimmerman, 28, was known to police for having reported anything from open garage doors to so-called suspicious characters, The Miami Herald reported.
Police said Zimmerman told them he got out of his vehicle to get a look at a street sign, and Martin attacked him from behind. Zimmerman said he shot Martin because he was afraid for his life.
The Justice Department said it will conduct "a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation."
The announcement that the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI will conduct the investigation came at the same time as Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement saying he had requested the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to offer "appropriate resources" in the matter, the Herald reported.
Martin's family has accused local police of backing Zimmerman's account of the slaying.
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee told the Herald his department "would welcome any outside entity that wants to come look at what we did."
"We have not done anything but conduct a fair and complete investigation," Lee said.
Zimmerman is white. Martin was black.
Martin's family had asked the FBI to investigate and about 250,000 people have signed an online petition at change.org demanding the arrest of Zimmerman, ABC News reported.
Ben Crump, an attorney for the Martin family, said he had written a letter requesting an investigation to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the letter has gone to several members of Congress, who were urging Holder to involve the FBI.
Prosecutors in Seminole County, Fla., were to review the case and decide whether to charge Zimmerman, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Outside the Seminole County criminal courts building, dozens of college students, angered by the shooting, protested Monday morning.
They held signs reading "Arrest Zimmerman now" and "The 911 tapes, they show murder" and sang, "We shall overcome."
Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
Before the shooting, Zimmerman can be heard on 911 tapes telling a dispatcher he spotted a suspicious person inside a gated community in suburban Orlando who "looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something." Police later told residents Zimmerman described Martin as suspicious because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and walking slowly in the rain.
A dispatcher told Zimmerman to wait for a police cruiser and not to leave his vehicle.
Minutes after Zimmerman called 911, ABC News said, he got out of his vehicle and became involved in an altercation with Martin.