Experts are still analyzing the 911 call made by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman on the night he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin—but if the U.S. Justice Department decides there is significant evidence that the shooting was racially motivated, then they can prosecute Zimmerman despite the Sanford Police Department dropping the case. Particularly important is whether Zimmerman used the racial epithet "f*cking c**n" to describe Martin in his 911 call before the shooting: “It sounds pretty obvious to me,” Donald Tibbs, a Drexel University law professor who has closely studied race, civil rights and criminal procedure, told the Post. “If that was a racial epithet that preceded the attack on Trayvon Martin, we definitely have a hate crime.”
Zimmerman is under intense scrutiny from all sides: Chris Tutko, director of Neighborhood Watch for the National Sheriffs' Association, said Zimmerman broke some cardinal rules, including approaching a stranger he suspected of wrongdoing. "If you see something suspicious, you report it, you step aside and you let law enforcement do their job," Tutko told Orlando Sentinel. "This guy went way beyond the call of duty. At the least, he's overzealous." And though Zimmerman broke no laws by carrying a gun—because he has a concealed-weapons permit—police departments and sheriff's offices advise volunteers never to carry weapons: "There's no reason to carry a gun."
The Post describes him as a paranoid police wannabe who was a nuisance to 911 operators, and spent his time tracking down stray dogs and "suspicious" children. The new Black Panther Party has now offered a bounty of $10,000 for his “capture:” “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” leader Mikhail Muhammad said. “If the government won’t do the job, we’ll do it.”
Zimmerman has been in hiding since the incident—his attorney says he broke his nose during the confrontation with Martin, and friends are worried about his safety following numerous death threats. Friend Joe Oliver said Zimmerman "couldn't stop crying" for days after he shot Martin; Oliver added that Zimmerman probably said "goon" in the 911 call. "I don't know of anyone younger than 40 who uses 'coon' as a racial epithet anymore," Oliver said.
Oliver and legal advisor Craig Soner both claim it was Zimmerman who was screaming, not Martin, in the 911 calls. This account is in sharp contrast to witnesses who have criticized how Zimmerman acted the night of the shooting: Mary Cutcher told Dateline that she and her roommate ran out after hearing the shot. She said she saw Zimmerman with "his hands pressed on [Martin's] back," and claims he "never turned him over or tried to help him."
Zimmerman did leave a voicemail for friend and former neighborhood watch captain Frank Taaffe, one of the few people who has been publicly defending Zimmerman. "I know you don't have to, and I appreciate it, and you're truly setting an example for me for the future of doing the right thing even when it's tough, and I appreciate it," Zimmerman said.
Meanwhile, the White House and Newt Gingrich continued to exchange barbs over President Obama's comments on Martin. In his first comments on the incident, Obama said on Friday: "When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." Gingrich responded by saying he was appalled by the president's statements: "It's not a question of who that young man looked like," Gingrich said. "Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified, no matter what the ethnic background...Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong."
Some even went one further and called Obama the most racist president ever. And today, White House senior adviser David Plouffe responded: "Speaker Gingrich is clearly in the last throes of his political career," he said on ABC’s “This Week.” "You can make a decision whether to go out with some shred of dignity or say these irresponsible, reckless things, and he's clearly chosen the latter path, and that's unfortunate for the country."