March 20, 2012 10:11:37 AM
In this time of neighborhood watches and heightened sensitivity about domestic crime, the Feb. 26 killing of a teenager in Florida offers a cautionary tale for us in the Golden Triangle.
By all accounts, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was a good kid. According to news reports, he helped his father coach little league baseball; he was good in math and dreamed of becoming a pilot. His high school English teacher described him "as an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness."
While visiting relatives in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., Martin was on his way back from a 7-ll store with a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea when he caught the eye of a crime-watch volunteer, who called 911.
"We've had some break-ins in the neighborhood, and there's this real suspicious guy," George Zimmerman told the dispatcher. "This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about."
Again, Martin was on his way back to the house he was visiting. He had been watching the NBA All-star game.
Later in the call, Zimmerman said the teen-ager was running away. The dispatcher advised Zimmerman, who was in a truck, not to follow and said an officer was on the way. Minutes later, Martin was killed by a bullet to the chest, which Zimmerman said he discharged in self-defense.
We think the recent proliferation of neighborhood watch programs locally is a good thing. It makes sense, looking out for one another. It also forces us to get to know our neighbors better, something we should do good times or bad. Always, we should all be cautious.
We should also be careful about jumping to conclusions, but, more importantly, as in the tragic case of Travon Martin, we don't need to take the law into our own hands. Just because someone walking down our street doesn't fit our idea of what is "normal" does not make him a criminal. While we urge residents to report suspicious activity, we also encourage restraint and common sense.
An innocent kid is dead because a man with a gun and an itchy finger found him suspicious.
Let's make sure that doesn't happen here.