On this day in 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old high school student, is fatally shot in Sanford, Florida by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Martin had gone with his father on a visit to his father’s fiancée at her townhouse at The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, and was walking back alone to the fiancée’s house after purchasing a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea at a nearby convenience store.
Zimmerman spotted Martin walking in the area and reported him to the Sanford Police as suspicious. Moments later, an altercation between the two individuals took place and Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest. Zimmerman, showing minor injuries after the encounter, claimed self-defense in the confrontation, and was not charged at the time. The police said there was no evidence to refute his claim of self-defense, and that Florida’s stand your ground law prohibited law-enforcement officials from arresting or charging him.
After national media focused on the tragedy, Zimmerman was eventually charged and tried in Martin’s death. A jury acquitted him of second-degree murder and manslaughter in July 2013, largely due to the aforementioned “stand their ground” law which encourages the use of force without retreating, in order to protect and defend against threats or perceived threats. The controversial blanket immunity is currently law in 33 states, and robustly supported by the NRA and various alt-right groups and media outlets.
A junior at George T. Baker Aviation School at the time of his murder, Martin had wanted to fly or repair airplanes and had graduated from “Experience Aviation,” a seven-week program in Opa-locka, Florida, which introduced him to aviation. During the time Martin was enrolled in the program, it was run by Barrington Irving, the youngest person ever to fly solo around the world. Irving said Martin was a polite youth who enjoyed flying and had an interest in football. After Martin graduated from the program, he spent the next summer as a volunteer, helping out new students in the aviation program.
According to his parents, Martin had hoped to attend the University of Miami or Florida A&M University.
The March 2019 issue of the NRA’s “American Rifleman” magazine featured a photograph of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and gunshot victim Gabby Giffords adjacent to the headline “target practice.”