The U.S. should investigate the Florida state prosecutor and local police chief who initially examined the shooting death of a black Florida teenager, an attorney for the victim’s family said.
In a meeting on Feb. 26, the night Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot to death in Sanford, Florida, the two officials “disregarded” the lead homicide investigator’s recommendation to arrest the suspect, said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family, in a letter to the Justice Department today.
The shooting has prompted rallies around the country and civil rights activists including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have called for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman, whose mother is Hispanic and father is white. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, told police he shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense.
Norman Wolfinger, the state attorney for Brevard and Seminole counties, met with Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee and overruled the lead homicide investigator’s recommendation to arrest Zimmerman, Crump said in the letter.
“We look forward to your thorough and comprehensive review of the suspicious circumstances surrounding this meeting, and the decision to disregard the recommendation” to arrest Zimmerman, Crump said.
Lee temporarily stepped aside on March 22 and Governor Rick Scott said another state attorney, Angela Corey, would take over the investigation.
Jackelyn Barnard, a spokeswoman for Corey, said she couldn’t comment on the letter because it references “an active criminal investigation.”
The Justice Department, which announced it had begun an investigation of Martin’s death for possible civil rights violations on March 19, will review the letter, said spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa.
Lee didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Lynne Bumpus-Hooper, a spokeswoman for Wolfinger, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.