On this dayFeb 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin Fatally Shot in Sanford, Florida


On the rainy evening of February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a Black boy, was fatally shot in a gated residential community in Sanford, Florida, while walking home from a nearby convenience store. George Zimmerman, a local resident and neighborhood watch coordinator, saw Trayvon and decided the Black youth in a hooded sweatshirt was "suspicious." Zimmerman called 911 to report Trayvon's presence while following him at a close distance and, despite the dispatcher's contrary instructions, confronted the teen and fatally shot him. The teen was carrying only iced tea and a bag of Skittles.

Police questioned Zimmerman and, based on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which permits the use of deadly force even in avoidable confrontations, they released him with no charges. Trayvon's unidentified body went to the morgue and his family learned his fate the next morning only after they reported him missing.

Outraged by the lack of police response, Trayvon's parents worked with advocates to publicize their son's murder. The story sparked national and international outrage, symbolizing for many the continuing danger of being a young Black male in America. On March 21, 2012, hundreds participated in a "Million Hoodie March" in New York City, calling for prosecutors to file criminal charges against Zimmerman. President Barack Obama called for a complete investigation and reflected, "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon."

George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in April 2012 but later acquitted of all charges. The presumption of guilt and dangerousness assigned to African Americans has made minority communities particularly vulnerable to the unfair administration of criminal justice.

About EJI

The Equal Justice Initiative works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality.

Learn more

About this website

Until we confront our history of racial injustice and its legacy, we cannot overcome the racial bias that exists today.

Learn more

Explore more events