Obama on boy's death: 'This is a tragedy'

Published: March 23, 2012 at 12:06 PM

SANFORD, Fla., March 23 (UPI) -- Calls for justice mounted Friday as thousands rallied to protest the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin, killed in a white Florida neighborhood.

President Obama commented, saying if he had a son, he would "look just like Trayvon."

Martin, 17, was shot to death Feb. 26 as he walked through a white neighborhood in the rain in Sanford.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, has said he killed the teen in self-defense. Police cited Florida's Stand Your Ground law in declining to arrest him.

"This is a tragedy," Obama said.

"And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And, you know, I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together -- federal, state and local -- to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened."

Thousands of people rallied in Sanford Thursday demanding an arrest in the case.

National Action Network leader and civil rights activist Al Sharpton said during the rally Zimmerman "should have been arrested that night" in February when the shooting occurred, USA Today reported.

"Twenty-six days ago this young man, Trayvon Martin, did nothing criminal, did nothing unethical," Sharpton said.

"He went to the store for his brother. He came back and lost his life. Trayvon could have been any one of our sons, he could have been any one of us. Trayvon represents a reckless disregard for our lives that we've seen for too long."

Sharpton, referring to the items carried by the teenager when he was shot, said, "You cannot defend yourself against a pack of Skittles and an iced tea."

Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Trayvon's family, told the rally Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed Angela Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, to take over the investigation after the local state attorney, Norman Wolfinger, recused himself.

Underlying the case is Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, passed by the Legislature in 2005.

State Rep. Mia Jones, a Democrat, said she and 23 other black state lawmakers would begin trying to repeal the law immediately.

Earlier Thursday, Sanford police chief Bill Lee Jr. announced he was stepping down temporarily as the outcry mounted over the shooting of the teen.

Rallies were conducted across the country to protest the shooting and the police decision against arresting Zimmerman.

On Tuesday, officials in Florida's Seminole County said they would convene a grand jury April 10 to look into the case. Members of the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division arrived in Sanford this week to participate in the investigation.

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