I have featured numerous articles on this blog about men and women who have taken justice into their own hands in order to save a child, prevent someone’s property from being destroyed, or simply as a refusal to stand by passively while a crime was being committed. There is often a fine line between being a concerned member of your community and stepping into territory in which you do not belong. Occasionally, this blurred line results in tragedy.
Most of you are familiar with the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a seventeen-year-old black male in Florida who was killed by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman while walking through the gated community in which his father lived. Zimmerman claims that he was acting in self-defense. The 911 tapes that have since been released paint a much more confusing picture of what happened, and certainly not a clear case of Martin being a direct and imminent threat to Zimmerman. There have been no charges filed in the shooting and a nationwide protest is growing that is demanding some answers as to why an unarmed teenager who was walking to see his dad after buying some candy was deemed threatening enough to be murdered.
There are wonderful examples of people stepping in to stop a criminal. From the simple instance of someone chasing after the pickpocket who just stole an elderly woman’s purse to the amazing men who took over United 93 and prevented terrorists from killing thousands of more lives on September 11, these heroes make us proud.
But, George Zimmerman had been instructed not to chase a boy who was running away from him and seemingly provoked a deadly conflict anyway. I hope that a more definitive story of what happened on February 26 comes to light and lessons can be learned about how and when we choose to play the role of police officer.
* * *