SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — The parents of a black teen fatally shot by a neighborhood watch captain were meeting Thursday with U.S. Justice Department officials, hours before thousands of protesters were expected for a rally led by civil rights activist Al Sharpton.
The parents of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin were meeting with Robert O’Neill, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, and Roy L. Austin Jr., who is deputy assistant attorney general of the department’s Civil Rights Division.
Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, were to discuss the police investigation into the shooting death of their son. The State Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case, which will be presented to a grand jury next month. However, the Justice Department earlier this week agreed to open a federal civil rights probe into the Feb. 26 shooting.
WATCH JONATHAN CAPEHART ELOQUENT WORDS ON THE TRAYVON MARTIN CASE:
Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, believe the shooter, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, should have been arrested. They claim Zimmerman was profiling their son and acted like a vigilante.
Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, and Sanford Police Department officials say there is no evidence that contradicts Zimmerman’s claim. Some neighbors in the gated community where Martin was shot have praised Zimmerman for taking a stand against crime in the neighborhood.
Florida’s self-defense law gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight.
The lack of an arrest has outraged residents who claim the Sanford Police Department has a history of ignoring the black community’s concerns. City commissioners gave the police chief a vote of no confidence on Wednesday. The commission can’t fire the chief because he reports to the city manager. The city manager said he will take the 3-2 vote under consideration.
Thousands of protesters were expected Thursday evening at an outdoor public park for a rally demanding that Zimmerman be charged. It had been scheduled to be held in a 400-seat church, but the rally was moved to accommodate the large number of protesters expected.
The rally is being headlined by Sharpton, who flew down to central Florida despite the death of his mother earlier in the day.
“My mom would have wanted me to,” Sharpton wrote on Twitter.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.