-from USA Today
The Justice Department said Tuesday its independent investigation found “insufficient evidence” to charge George Zimmerman with federal civil rights violations in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the evidence did not meet the “high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution,” but the decision should not end efforts to explore racial tensions in the justice system. The decision closes the federal investigation.
“This young man’s premature death necessitates that we continue the dialogue and be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface,” Holder said in a statement. “We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”
Zimmerman shot Trayvon, 17, on Feb. 26, 2012, as the teen walked back to a relative’s home after purchasing snacks at a convenience store in Sanford, Fla.
Federal authorities opened an investigation into the teen’s death shortly after the 2012 fatal shooting. They halted the inquiry to allow the local prosecution to proceed and resumed their investigation in July 2013. On July 13, 2013, a Florida jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, sparking protests in several cities.
The federal investigation resumed after Zimmerman’s acquittal in state court. Federal investigators reviewed the evidence generated by Florida’s investigation and prosecution and independently conducted 75 witness interviews and reviewed other encounters Zimmerman had with law enforcement in Florida, the Justice Department said. Federal authorities also retained an independent biomechanical expert who assessed Zimmerman’s descriptions of his struggle with Trayvon and the shooting.
The investigation reviewed events from the moment of their first encounter through the fatal shooting to determine whether Zimmerman approached Trayvon in a “threatening manner” or used force against him because of his race, the Justice Department said.
“Our decision not to pursue federal charges does not condone the shooting that resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and is based solely on the high legal standard applicable to these cases,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.