SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Sanford city leaders, along with Sanford residents, gathered Tuesday evening in a rally at the Allen Chapel AME Church to discuss the investigation in Trayvon Martin's shooting death, and why an arrest has not been made.
Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman three weeks ago, and the Sanford Police Department did not arrest him.
"This is the beginning of the end of discrimination and racism that still exists," said Valarie Houston, lead pastor of the Allen Chapel AME Church.
Activists and leaders of the community were outraged that Zimmerman has not been arrested. (click to see rally images)
"Zimmerman needs to be put behind bars," said Benjamin Jealous, NAACP National President.
Their message was loud and it was clear. One after another, African-American activists and leaders from Central Florida and across the nation stood before a chapel of more than 350 outraged residents and demanded answers and called for justice.
"To make sure that the suspect, the shooter, the perp of this crime is arrested and brought to justice," President of Seminole County NAACP, Turner Clayton said.
A Seminole County grand jury will hear evidence in the case of slain 17-year-old Martin on April 10, according to State Attorney Norm Wolfinger.
Wolfinger released a statement on Tuesday saying, "I share in the desire of the family and the community to accurately collect and evaluate all the facts surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. That is why I directed the expeditious review of the investigation which was delivered by the Sanford Police Department one week ago today; areas for further investigation have been identified; and, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has agreed to assist and has been working hard with my office since Friday, March 16. I will also be utilizing the investigative resources of the Seminole County Grand Jury which will be called to session on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.
I respectfully request that the public remain patient as this process continues forward. We are a country based upon law, and as the State Attorney for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit I am sworn to uphold those laws. As I have previously stated, the public is entitled to no less than a thorough, deliberate, and just review of the facts. We intend to honor that commitment."
The panel includes 21 Seminole County citizens. Officials said 54 percent of the cases that go through the State Attorney's Office with no arrests still go to trial.
Zimmerman told police he shot Martin in self-defense after calling 911 to report that the boy was acting suspiciously.
Martin was walking home from a nearby store and only had a bag of Skittles and an iced tea.
"This guy looks like he's up to no good," Zimmerman said to a Sanford Police Department operator.
Throughout the day, people on social media websites began reporting that they heard the racial slur; however, others said they don't believe that it was an offensive comment. To listen for yourself, click here.
WFTV had an audio expert listen to the call, and determined that the word said was "punks."
While there have been suggestions of racism by Zimmerman, his father wrote a letter to the Orlando Sentinel saying his son is not a racist.
Meanwhile, the attorney for Martin's parents, Benjamin Crump, held a news conference on Tuesday about the case.
Crump spoke on behalf of Martin's mother, Sabrina Fulton, and his father, Tracy Martin.
"Sabrina is emotionally and physically exhausted," Crump stated.
Crump also said that Tracy Martin is "struggling for justice" to hold the person who is responsible accountable.
The outcry over Martin's death has now prompted a federal investigation, and ABC News talked exclusively to a 16-year-old girl who was on the phone with Martin in the moments before he was shot and killed. Her family has asked not to identify the girl.
She said Martin told her he saw someone watching him and tried to get away.
"He said this man was watching him so he put his hoodie on, [Martin said] 'What are you following me for?' The man says 'What you doing around here?' Then the man like, like pushed Trayvon cause his headset like fell," the girl told ABC News.
The girl said after that the phone went dead and when she called back, Trayvon never answered.
"She is traumatized by this. They were dating," said Crump. "He got killed moments after he was talking to you is just riveting to this young lady. She couldn't even go to his wake. She was so sick. Her mother had to take her to the hospital."
Crump also said that said Martin left to go to the store to get some snacks before the NBA All-Star game, because his little brother asked him to buy Skittles and a drink.
The case is going to the Justice Department because according to Crump, "The family does not trust the Sanford Police Department."
Crump also said that Martin ran into the apt complex to try to get out of the rain and did not know he was being watched.
When the rain died down, Martin began walking toward his home and then told his girlfriend, "I think this dude is following me."
Crump said the girl replied, "Oh, be careful, just run home."
According to Crump, Martin then said the girl, "I think I lost him." However, Martin is heard later saying, "Oh, he's right behind me again."
Crump then stated that Zimmerman was heard by the girl asking Martin, "What are you doing around here?" And then she heard an altercation.
Crump said that he was "utterly shocked when they told me the time they talked," and what Zimmerman said to the police about him acting suspiciously is completely contradictive to what the phone records show.
Crump said that phone records that the Sanford Police Department had clearly show the last call was at 7:12 p.m. by a girl who he had talked to all day. He said the call lasted four minutes.
Police documented that they arrived at scene at 7:17 p/m., which is less than five minutes after Martin's friend called. Crump said that records show there wasn’t much during the altercation, and she was on the phone for four of those minutes, so that Martin was the aggressor was "preposterous."
Witness told Crump they heard Martin screaming for help on the 911 call.
Crump stated that voice experts are running the audio tape to confirm that it was Martin screaming for help.
Another question on the family's mind was why didn’t the Sanford Police Department run a background check, or perform an alcohol and drug test on Zimmerman, when the department did on Martin.
"Arrest this killer. He killed this child in cold blood," Crump stated.
WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said that with the phone call involving a racial slur, it will be much harder for Zimmerman to cling to his self-defense claims.
There's a push to make this a hate crime case in Washington D.C.
Sanford's mayor, Jeff Triplett, the city manager and Congresswoman Corrine Brown met with Attorney General Eric Holder about the case.
Brown said she wanted the Justice Department to look into whether Zimmerman violated any federal civil rights laws.
"There are many, many instances where I don't think the system handled it properly," said Brown.
Brown pointed to police who took Zimmerman's word that he shot Martin in self-defense.
"If we made missteps along the way, we're going to correct actions also hold someone accountable," said Triplett.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott told protesters demanding an independent investigation into the fatal shooting that the case will be handled properly.
About 50 people led by a group of lawyers walked into Scott's lobby on Tuesday to deliver a letter and ask to speak with the governor.
They applauded when Scott unexpectedly stepped out of his office.
The group wants the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take over the investigation of Martin's death last month in Sanford.
Scott said FDLE will continue to assist Sanford police in the investigation, and he's confident the agency will make sure if Zimmerman did something wrong, he won't get away with it.
Also on Tuesday, Attorney General Pam Bondi made a statement on the case: "I am both devastated and deeply troubled that young Trayvon Martin lost his life in a shooting. When someone loses his life at the hands of another, there cannot be any questions surrounding the circumstances of the death.
"I have spoken to FDLE Commissioner Bailey, whose agency is now involved, and I know that a complete and thorough review of the facts will be conducted. FDLE has skilled investigators of the highest caliber, and no stone will be left unturned in this investigation. While the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office has the sole authority regarding a charging decision by law, I will remain vigilant in ensuring that questions are answered."
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