TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — State Sen. Gary Siplin and a coalition of other black lawmakers are asking Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate last month's shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer near Orlando.
Trayvon Martin, 17, who was black, was killed Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white Hispanic, in a gated community in Sanford. Zimmerman, who has not been charged, has said he shot the high school student in self-defense.
The shooting, now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and local authorities, has sparked an international furor with civil rights leaders demanding Zimmerman's arrest and a probe into selective prosecution of black defendants.
Siplin, an Orlando attorney whose district is near Sanford, said the community is plagued by a "plantation" mentality and asked Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to quell racial tension. "In my community today, they're very upset. They're very excited. They're ready to ignite," Siplin, a Democrat, said at a press conference in the Capitol Wednesday afternoon.
Scott's office said the governor is reviewing Siplin's request.
Siplin, joined by fellow Democratic Sens. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale and Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens, also intends to conduct a "fact-finding mission" in Sanford within the next month, to identify inequities in treatment between blacks and whites.
The meetings are to "make sure that the vestiges of racism that have been identified that have existed in Sanford for over 100 years can be slowly chipped away, to make sure that Sanford is returned to the 2012 century."
Senate Health and Human Services budget chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he would participate in the town hall meetings to "make sure we have equal access to services throughout Florida."
Martin's death has renewed criticism of Florida's first-in-the-nation "Stand Your Ground" law that allows individuals who feel threatened to use deadly force to defend themselves.
Both Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, have rebuffed black Democratic lawmakers' requests for special committees to look into the law, which Zimmerman has invoked in his defense.
Zimmerman had reported a "suspicious" person to 911 shortly before the encounter, saying a black male was checking out the houses and staring at him. Zimmerman, a criminal justice major, often patrolled the neighborhood. He placed 46 calls to 911 in 14 months, for reports including open windows and suspicious persons.
In the 911 call, Zimmerman, using an expletive and speaking of Martin, said they "always get away." The 911 dispatcher told him not to get out of the car and said the police were on their way. Zimmerman was already outside. A dispute began. Zimmerman told the police that Martin attacked him and that he fired in self-defense.
The New York Times contributed to this report.
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