Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, said the story about his suspension was leaked by the police to smear her son’s reputation.
Sanford City Manager Norton N. Bonaparte Jr. said that the information in the Orlando Sentinel had not been provided to the media through an authorized police source and was possibly a leak in the department. But, he said, the account in the newspaper was “consistent with the information provided to the State Attorney’s Office by the police department.”
Martin’s shooting has sparked a national outcry over racial profiling, with the family’s supporters demanding that police arrest Zimmerman, who has not commented publicly on the case and who remains in hiding.
Fulton and her ex-husband, Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, will attend a congressional briefing Tuesday afternoon on racial profiling and state “stand your ground” laws with several Democratic representatives, including Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.), John Conyers (Mich.) and Corrine Brown (Fla.).
Twenty-one such laws have been passed in the United States in recent years. Sanford authorities cited Florida’s “stand your ground” law as the reason Zimmerman has not been arrested.
“When the Sanford Police Department arrived at the scene of the incident, Mr. Zimmerman provided a statement claiming
he acted in self-defense, which
at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony,” Bonaparte said in a statement last week.
“By Florida Statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time,” Bonaparte wrote in the statement, citing statutes including Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
The Florida law, which was the first such measure passed in the country, was signed in 2005. It was backed by the National Rifle Association and opposed by police officials, who feared it would encourage untrained vigilantes to take the law into their own hands.
John F. Timoney, a former Miami police chief and former head of the Police Executive Research Forum, said he and other Florida police chiefs wrote to the Florida legislature in 2005 opposing the “stand your ground” concept.
“Laws like ‘stand your ground’ give citizens unfettered power and discretion with no accountability,” Timoney wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times last weekend. “It is a recipe for disaster.”
In Florida, the “stand your ground” law specifically gives citizens the right to use force — even deadly force — in a public space if they feel threatened. Under the Florida statute, a person “who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”
While most of the laws were passed by Republican-controlled states, such as Pennsylvania, not all were. Oklahoma’s Democratic governor signed a “stand your ground” law. President Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, signed such a law when she was the Democratic governor of Arizona.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday, asking the Justice Department to investigate the laws.
“These laws seem to be encouraging vigilantism by allowing individuals to use deadly force as a first resort,” Schumer wrote.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.