George Zimmerman, in his role as neighborhood watch of a gated suburban community in Florida, had “no authorization” to take action against 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) told TPM Friday. “This is a self-made head of a community neighborhood watch. That’s where my concern is.”
Zimmerman claims he shot Martin — who was only carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea — in self defense. The shooting has renewed debate over Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows the use of deadly force if a person feels threatened.
West said the Florida law “does not apply whatsoever” to the Martin case, because Zimmerman was not being pursued by Martin. Anti-gun lobbyists shouldn’t use the legislation to score political points, West added, without commenting on the law further.
Martin’s death has sparked a national outcry. Amid the outrage over the shooting, Sanford, Florida, Police Chief Bill Lee “temporarily” stepped aside from the Martin case, because he said his involvement was becoming a distraction. In a scathing statement Thursday, West called the case an “outrage” and urged Lee to step down. The police chief’s doing so is a “positive step,” West said.
The Justice Department, along with local and state authorities, are investigating the shooting, which West said is “exactly what we should have happen.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, both Republicans, have appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Martin’s death. Scott also said a task force will be formed to review the “Stand Your Ground” law.
On Friday in the Rose Garden, President Obama called the shooting a “tragedy.” He said his thoughts go out to Martin’s parents: “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
“All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this happened,” Obama added.