The Justice Department announced on Tuesday that George Zimmerman, known for fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012, will not face charges.
In a press release, the DOJ said their independent federal investigation prosecutors found there was not sufficient evidence to prove Zimmerman intentionally violated Martin’s civil rights. Zimmerman was working as a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida when he shot Martin on February 26, 2012, making this upcoming Thursday the three-year anniversary.
Following the shooting, a team of civil rights prosecutors and FBI agents began a federal investigation of the event separately from the state of Florida’s investigation. When Florida began a second-degree murder prosecution, the federal investigation of the events halted and instead focused on the state’s case. In 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges, including second-degree murder and manslaughter, by a Florida jury. Shortly after the state’s decision, federal investigators resumed their investigation, including 75 witness interviews and reviews of electronic devices.
The shooting by the 31-year-old Hispanic man of a black unarmed teenager opened debates and conversations over race in America, with many accusing Zimmerman of shooting Martin because he was black. Protests erupted all over the country after the 2013 decision, calling for racial justice.
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a devastating tragedy. It shook an entire community, drew the attention of millions across the nation, and sparked a painful but necessary dialogue throughout the country.” Attorney General Eric Holder said in the press release. “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. We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”
Two DOJ investigations are currently focusing on last year’s events in Ferguson, Missouri when Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, a black unarmed teenager. While one investigation is focusing on Wilson’s actions, the other is looking at the entire Ferguson Police Department.
Last November, a state grand jury decided not to indict Wilson over insufficient evidence. The Justice Department is not expected to bring charges against Wilson, but may take action against the Ferguson Police Department, according to ABC.