THE TRAGEDY AND TRAVESTY IN SANFORD, FLORIDA
Dear City of Sanford, Florida,
Please allow me a brief introduction.
I usually utilize this space to write about the lighter side of life or sports. Every now and then, I go on a rant about a somewhat serious issue, yet it’s often done with a satiric sense. But I am now trying to write a coherent message about life, death, public trust, civil rights and so much more. Indeed, it’s hard to think while almost visibly angry and difficult to type with clenched fingers.
As you well know, a young man of 17 years named Trayvon Martin was visiting his father, who lived in one of the communities of your town. In the interest of disclosure, I am roughly three times his age and Caucasian—all things that should not matter as seemingly a clear majority of reasonable people of all ages, races and ethnicities are outraged at not only the events that took his life 26 days ago—but by the pathetic response of your town officials that can most generously be characterized as willfully incompetent, insensitive and dishonest.
26 days…and counting…have passed since a man named George Zimmerman—for reasons that perhaps he does not even comprehend—profiled Trayvon Martin, pursued him over the clear objections of the 9-1-1 operator and shot him dead.
26 days, 624 hours and counting have now passed and your police department still has not acted to apprehend and arrest Mr. Zimmerman, who admitted to killing young Trayvon, when the killer was found with his gun nearby.
624 hours and counting have now elapsed and members of your police department have not arrested a man whom they knew had made a call to 9-1-1 in which he cited no probable cause to find Trayvon suspicious, and yet pursued him anyway, precipitating some kind of encounter that resulted in the death of a 17-year-old young man who was armed with Skittles, an iced tea and a cell phone. Within less than a football field of his lawful, familial destination.
624 hours and counting have passed, and according to multiple sources, not only has your police department enabled Mr. Zimmerman to be free to do whatever someone of his sick mindset might, but has used its time and resources to lead witnesses into false statements, ignore evidence and find the time to drug test only the deceased, Trayvon Martin. I can’t believe that I just wrote that about an actual incident in 2012 America; it would hardly seem to be a credible subplot for a novel or movie. Please allow this one to sink in for just a moment more.
624 hours have passed…let me rephrase this…37,440 excruciating minutes have elapsed since Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton lost their son—and for what, exactly—in your town. In not one of these 37,440 public minutes have your town officials shown the slightest degree of competence, let alone caring and compassion.
Dear City of Sanford, Florida,
I live one thousand miles away from your town and, frankly, did not know much at all about you prior to this murder. Your name alone did not signify even an approximate location on a map of Florida nor any connection to events of the past. That was before, of course, the events of 26 days ago started drawing national attention.
Let me be clear here. None of us know exactly what happened in the Trayvon Martin murder, but almost anyone with a functioning heart and brain can come to the rather easy conclusion that this young man of 17 years is dead because of the sick, twisted, vigilante actions of George Zimmerman. As absolutely unconscionable and outrageous as his decisions and actions were, most of us—if you pardon my presumption—reserve even greater outrage for the inaction and incompetence of your police department and city officials.
In other words, George Zimmerman is responsible for the great tragedy in this incident—the brutal killing of young Trayvon Martin. It is horrific, unconscionable and profoundly sad that this young man’s life ended so abruptly and so brutally. My heart feels sick for what his family and friends are going through, and it seems that the family has shown remarkable grace and composure during these last excruciating 37,440 minutes and counting. I do not want to minimize this in any way as many of us are profoundly saddened and angered by this tragedy. We are also beside ourselves in disbelief at the travesty of injustice that has been perpetrated by your city officials. Yes, in real life, in 2012 America.
Unfortunately, the killing of Trayvon Martin may have been a national story even if the police department performed with any degree of competence or caring after the murder took place. It is due to the department’s extreme inaction and incompetence—and every appearance of engaging in an unlawful cover-up—that Sanford, Florida is now on the radar of so many. For all the wrong reasons, of course.
I have no reason to want to direct a diatribe against your police department, or any police department for that matter. Men in blue, categorically, have long earned my respect and admiration; your police department, based on everything we know, has earned my scorn and contempt. That, in and of itself, is a travesty for those good men and women who also serve in this department. It is also a travesty for the preponderance of good men, women and children of every race, color and creed who reside in your town.
Because of the inaction, incompetence and deplorable decisions and tactics of your police department, almost every news medium is going to turn this tragedy and travesty into whatever sells. We are now parsing the 9-1-1 tape (that your officials took their time in releasing) to see if the sick and twisted killer used another racial epithet. We are debating, in sometimes inflammatory fashion, whether the killer was White, Hispanic or both as if this senseless tragedy and ensuing travesty was not bad enough.
As a white man, I may never know how it feels to be profiled the way Trayvon Martin was on that terrible night of 26 days ago. As a human being blessed with a functioning brain and heart, I still can only approximate how it must feel for Tracy Martin, Sybrina Fulton and all those who loved Trayvon to be at the receiving end of the monumental travesty of injustice perpetrated by your police department. Of course, this travesty is piled on top of the tragedy. And yet, the family has—for 624 hours and counting—handled itself with extraordinary grace and composure.
Yesterday, your city officials, after having 600 hours to get its story straight, released the following statement via its city manager.
While I should let the statement speak for itself and let each reader come to his/her own conclusions, I must say this. This is a further insult on top of the tragedy and travesty that has already been visited upon so many.
It is interesting that the statement opens with this:
There has been a lot of media attention to the recent incident where George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
So, let me get this straight. Look at that statement. It does not say allegedly. Read the words again from the very first sentence. In this ongoing investigation, the city’s official statement says flat-out that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. And yet…wait for it if you can…in your own statement (released 600 hours after the murder) you argue that the police did not arrest Mr. Zimmerman because they could not ensure that they would be making the arrest in good faith and with probable cause. You then go on to explain “If the arrest is done maliciously and in bad faith, the officer and the City may be held liable.”
Dear People of Sanford, Florida,
Please excuse my inelegant language here, but who in their right fuc&in’ mind would ever come to the conclusion that arresting Mr. Zimmerman, despite the enormity of evidence that he shot and killed an unarmed man whom he provoked into a confrontation would constitute a malicious action on the part of police? Who in their right fuc&in’ mind—let alone your highest public officials—would even consider that the City may be held liable here if they arrested Zimmerman?
Of course, your City decided that the proper action was to let this twisted vigilante continue to be a menace to himself and whomever may be within his range while it proceeded to perform a drug test on Trayvon Martin and lead witnesses into making false statements. Yes, for all that, they absolutely should be held liable.
The rest of the statement—or Q&A, apparently provided by Police Chief Lee—reads like someone of a fourth-rate intellect not acting as police chief and protector of its citizens but as a fifth-rate sleazy defense attorney. Frankly, it is almost beneath my dignity and intellect to pick apart the statement on a point-by-point basis. The statement is laughable, contemptible and an insult to anyone with an IQ above plant life. It also somehow manages to blame the victim’s father, Mr. Martin, for misconstruing a statement.
Dear City of Sanford Police Department and Public Officials,
The horrific tragedy of Trayvon Martin losing his life, future and promise cannot be undone. The unconscionable travesty of how you have acted in response cannot be completely erased. You have been dragged into making statements (however contemptible) and allegedly cooperating with a federal investigation against your baser instincts and we can’t erase those first 624 hours of extreme inaction and willful incompetence.
You have trampled the civil rights of a young man and his family, and managed to resurrect the ghosts of what should have been a long bygone era. I can only imagine the psychic damage that this has already wreaked on (especially) young African-American males who not only must live in fear of being profiled by sick, twisted vigilante with a gun but also must live with the knowledge that a police department essentially condoned this murder.
All that most reasonable people have wanted since hearing about this incident, is that Mr. Zimmerman be arrested. Let him be tried, and let him have the opportunity to have his day in court, even though the main witness died due to his actions. Of course, most reasonable people—624 hours later, and counting—cannot understand how Chief Lee and any official connected to this travesty should be allowed to keep their jobs after this monumental fail.
If you have any shred of competency or decency, you will arrest this man and then prepare an exit strategy from your positions that will minimize more chaos in your town.
Dear People of Sanford, Florida
Yes, there is probably still more to write, even with too little sleep, too much outrage and with fingers that are still clenched.
Sincerely, and With Love to All Kind Hearts Everywhere,
No, this is not my usual type of column, but I do try to bring integrity to whatever I assign my name to. As always, thank you for reading. Please check out my books, blogs and speaking information. My Facebook Fan page is here.
Please feel most free to click and "like" it; I like it when that happens.