- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 24, 2015

George Zimmerman will not face federal criminal charges, the Justice Department announced Tuesday, saying there is “insufficient evidence” to charge him in the death of Trayvon Martin.

The fatal shooting in 2012 launched a national debate about Florida’s self-defense laws — which Mr. Zimmerman used to win an acquittal in the shooting, which he always acknowledged — and claims about racial profiling.

“Though a comprehensive investigation found that the high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution cannot be met under the circumstances here, this young man’s premature death necessitates that we continue the dialogue and be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface,” said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of state murder charges in 2013. Advocates for Martin turned their attention to federal investigators, hoping the self-described neighborhood watch officer would at least face some kind of firearms or civil rights charges.

But the Justice Department on Tuesday said “there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a violation of these statutes.”

“The death of Trayvon Martin was a devastating tragedy” Mr. Holder said. “It shook an entire community, drew the attention of millions across the nation, and sparked a painful but necessary dialogue throughout the country.”

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The announcement comes almost exactly three years to the day after the shooting, and ahead of an anticipated ruling in another fatal shooting that raised racial tensions. Activists are waiting for the government to decide whether or not to press charges against Officer Darren Wilson, a former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown during a confrontation.

Although Justice has not made any official statements, multiple media reports have said the department is likely to act similarly, in not pursuing any charges against Mr. Wilson, though some broader action against the city over the racial makeup of the Ferguson Police Department may happen.

In a statement to the press Tuesday, the Martin family said they were “disappointed” by the decision not to pursue charges.

“We remain poised to do everything in our power to help eradicate senseless violence in our communities, because we don’t want any other parents to experience the unexplainable loss we have endured,” said Mr. Martin’s parents, adding that they wanted to honor their son “by working tirelessly to make the world a better place.”

Vanita Gupta, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said the decision was based solely on the law and “does not condone the shooting that resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin.”

“Although the department has determined that this matter cannot be prosecuted federally, it is important to remember that this incident resulted in the tragic loss of a teenager’s life,” she said.

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Advocacy groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People did not immediately release statements Tuesday following Justice’s announcement.

Turner Clayton, a former leader of the Sanford, Florida, NAACP chapter — the city where Martin was shot — said he was not surprised by the Justice Department’s decision and was “expecting this to happen.”

In February 2012, Mr. Zimmerman called police saying that he was following Martin who looked suspicious. At one point Mr. Zimmerman got out of his car, after which point accounts differ. Mr. Zimmerman said he was attacked and shot Martin out of self-defense, while the Martin family has criticized Mr. Zimmerman for following and confronting their son in the first place.

The Justice Department said it had conducted more than 75 witness interviews, as well as examining all police reports and evidence gathered during the original case against Mr. Zimmerman.

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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