- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The parents of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was fatally shot last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer, traveled to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge Congress to push for answers and justice in their son’s death.

Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and father, Tracy Martin, who spoke briefly at a congressional forum organized by House Democrats, thanked supporters who have “allowed us to stand tall.”

“Thank you to everyone who’ve supported our family, everyone who has helped us stand tall in this matter, everyone who is holding the legacy of Trayvon and making sure that he did not indeed die in vain,” said Mr. Martin.

Ms. Fulton added that “Trayvon was our son, but Trayvon was your son.”

After the 2½-hour forum, the parents, surrounded by attorneys and Democrats, called for “peace” for their son’s accused shooter, George Zimmerman, who told police he acted in self-defense and hasn’t been arrested or charged.

“We have not gotten justice yet because this man has not been arrested for shooting my son,” Ms. Fulton said.

But the forum, billed as a briefing on racial profiling and hate crimes, was dominated by lawmakers, mostly black House Democrats, who strongly condemned Mr. Zimmerman and Sanford, Fla., law enforcement officials handling the case.

Trayvon, 17, was fatally shot Feb. 26 in the central Florida city where his father’s girlfriend lives.

A neighborhood watch volunteer called the police to say he saw someone in a hooded sweatshirt who looked high on drugs and was suspicious because he walked too slowly in a gated community.

The unarmed teenager, who was serving out a suspension from his Miami-area high school, was coming from a store where he bought Skittles and iced tea, and was talking to his girlfriend on the phone, records show.

Mr. Zimmerman told police Trayvon jumped him, punched him in the face and slammed his head on the ground, according to information published by the Orlando Sentinel.

The teen’s violent death has inspired rallies and marches from coast to coast and sparked a national conversation about racial profiling and justice.

As civil rights activists and Democrats rallied for Trayvon’s parents in Washington, more information about witness accounts and the teen-ager’s background in school leaked out of the investigation into the shooting.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Mr. Zimmerman told police that he and Trayvon exchanged words before the teen punched him in the nose and began banging his head on the ground. He said he cried out for help, and at least one witness corroborated at least part of that account.

The parents’ attorney, Ben Crump, said the negative reports that are being leaked about Trayvon are making Mr. Zimmerman look like the victim and Trayvon the suspect.

“When you review the case, every aspect of it has been handled very poorly, very poorly, and not according to any standards,” said Rep. Corrine Brown, Florida Democrat, who represents Sanford.

“I don’t know if it’s incompetence or whether its a cover-up or all of the above, but we’ve got to make sure that what has happened in Sanford with the police department and how they handled this situation never happens again in the United States of America.”

Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, a Democrat who represents the Miami-area town where Trayvon lived, said Trayvon was the “victim of a botched police investigation.”

“I will not rest until an arrest is made. I will not stop beating this drum until we have justice for Trayvon,” Ms. Wilson said.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee who ran the forum, called at one point in the meeting for a moment of silence for Trayvon.

The Justice Department is investigating the case and could bring a hate crime charge against the shooter if there is sufficient evidence the slaying was motivated by racial bias and not simply a fight that spiraled out of control, legal experts and former prosecutors say.

Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat, who said the incident could happen anywhere in the country, called the situation a “toxic and deadly mix of the gun lobby, hate crime and radical profiling.”

“We need to make sure this ends and ends once and for all,” she said.

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, New York Democrat, who also lashed out at Trayvon’s shooter and the Sanford Police Department, told the teen’s parents they “have been victimized twice.”

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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