By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Outraged by the acquittal of George Zimmerman, House members representing Brooklyn districts were among the lawmakers calling on the US Department of Justice to conduct “a thorough investigation” into whether the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death violated civil rights laws.
Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velazquez, Jerrold Nadler, and Yvette Clarke, joined by representatives Charlie Rangel, Gregory Meeks, and José Serrano, issued the demand for a full investigation.
Zimmerman, 28, shot Martin, an unarmed black teenager, to death in Sanford, Florida in 2012 after following the teen and reporting to police in a 911 call that he was suspicious. On July 13, a jury found Zimmerman not guilty of murder. The acquittal sparked outrage all over the country and led to protest marches in several cities, including New York.
On July 14, the Justice Dept. announced that it is re-launching an investigation into the case to consider possible hate crime charges against Zimmerman. The department started a probe in 2012, but suspended its investigation as the state’s criminal process began in Florida.
“George Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon Martin, and then shot him dead in cold blood,” Jeffries (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant) said. “The continuation of the Justice Department inquiry is a significant step in the right direction. Ultimately, a federal grand jury should decide if Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman because he was black in violation of our nation’s hate crime laws,” Jeffries said.
Nadler (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan) said the investigation is warranted. “As the Ranking Member of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, I, like so many Americans, have watched the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s senseless death very closely and with a deep, abiding sadness,” Nadler said.
“I am pleased that the Department of Justice has already announced that it will revive its on-going investigation and fully evaluate the evidence in this matter to determine whether separate Federal civil rights charges may be brought. Such potential charges would be different than those brought under Florida state law. I believe that such an investigation into possible federal criminal civil right violations is well-warranted and I urge the Justice Department to move forward expeditiously,” he said.
Calling Martin’s death “a tragedy for all Americans,” Velazquez (D-Sunset Park) said that the Justice Dept. “should swiftly investigate whether his civil rights were violated and if further action can be taken under existing statute.”
Clarke said she was deeply disappointed in the verdict. “We know that Trayvon Martin would have been living today if George Zimmerman had not pursued him with a firearm. I am disappointed that the laws of Florida have failed to secure justice for Trayvon and his family. Our children are not safe if private citizens have the authority to act as vigilantes,” Clarke (D-Crown Heights) said.
“My prayers are with the parents of Trayvon Martin, who have demonstrated extraordinary courage in this awful tragedy," she added.