CINCINNATI (AP) — The mother of an unarmed black Florida teen who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer said Wednesday that she is mentally prepared to handle whatever verdict or sentence is handed down to the shooter, even an exoneration.
Sybrina Fulton made the statement to reporters after she and the teen’s father, Tracy Martin, tearfully addressed a town hall on violence and racial healing in Cincinnati, talking about their grief and the importance of preventing similar shootings.
The February shooting of their son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, led to nationwide protests over race and self-defense laws after police didn’t arrest the shooter, George Zimmerman, for more than a month.
One of the protests was held in Cincinnati on March 26, when a crowd of more than 300 people marched from a downtown library to a central downtown plaza in support of Martin and his family.
Zimmerman, who has a white father and Hispanic mother, now faces a charge of second-degree murder and has pleaded not guilty. He claims that Martin attacked him, saying he was defending himself under Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
As she spoke to reporters following Wednesday’s town hall, Fulton declined to say whether she believed Zimmerman’s recent statements that the shooting had nothing to do with race and that he was sorry.
Instead, she sighed and rolled her eyes, and her attorney answered the question by saying that Martin’s parents may never know exactly what happened that night.
“We didn’t know George Zimmerman before this. We don’t know if he’s a racist or not,” said attorney Benjamin Crump. “He profiled Trayvon Martin for some reason and pursued him. Whether he wants to say he profiled him because he thought he was a criminal or whether it’s something more sinister, we will never know what was in his mind.”
Fulton said Zimmerman is not her focus.
“My son’s life was cut down short. He had a bright future,” she said. “The most difficult part is the process that I’m going through now, and that’s the part of not having my son on Earth. Everything else is just a process, and I think if I can deal with not holding my son and hugging my son and not talking to him, I can certainly deal with whatever the court rules.”
The town hall was held on the closing day of the Children’s Defense Fund’s national conference in downtown Cincinnati.
Cincinnati was the site of race riots in 2001 that were sparked by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black youth who ran from a white officer trying to make an arrest.
Crump referred to that history as he spoke to reporters, saying that “every community has a Trayvon Martin.”
Author-poet Maya Angelou opened the town hall with remarks about the Martin family and how important it is for those who support them not to be consumed by hate or turn to violence.
“I don’t want to see five more Trayvons and five Trayvettes get killed by police who’ve been waiting for that chance,” she said. “Please pray for justice.”
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