Florida officer fired after bringing Trayvon Martin image to target practice

(Courtesy NBC News)

(Courtesy NBC News)

A Port Canaveral, Florida police officer has been fired for bringing targets depicting Trayvon Martin to a gun range.

Sgt. Ron King was conducting firearms training on April 4th for two fellow Port Canaveral officers and a civilian employee of the city, when he produced a target depicting a hooded figure in silhouette, holding a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles candy — the items found on Martin’s body when he was killed last February 26th.

George Zimmerman faces second degree murder charges in the shooting, and says Martin attacked him, and that he shot the teen in self-defense. Port Canaveral is about 60 miles north of Sanford, where the shooting took place.

Targets are being sold online

Trayvon Martin shooting targets had been sold by a handful of online outlets, and King said in a YouTube statement released after his termination that he purchased the targets on one of them.

According to news reports, King produced two such targets and asked if any of the officers wished to use them, but put them back in his patrol car when he was told they did not.

Port Canaveral’s interim CEO John Walsh issued an apology to Martin’s family, and following an internal investigation, King was fired last week.

In a YouTube video, King defended his actions, and accused unknown persons of exploiting Martin’s family.

“I would like to start my statement by first apologizing to the family of Trayvon Martin for being used as a pawn in somebody’s political agenda. Additionally, I would like to apologize to my fellow law enforcement officers for any negative light that this has come from this incident,” King said in his video statement.

“I remain a professional law enforcement officer and a professional fire arms instructor. I refuse to sit by while others use the Martin family and myself as a way to further their own political and career agendas.”

He went on to describe what happened at the training session from his point of view, saying, “I am being accused of using a Trayvon Martin silhouette target for firearms training in a manner that is less than professional. I take these allegations seriously and I find that others are accusing me of something that I just plain did not do.”

He admitted to bringing the targets as a training aid, but denied offering the targets to other officers to shoot at them. His statement continued:

As an instructor in the law enforcement field, I can tell you that using real life situations as a training scenario is not uncommon: bank robberies, traffic stops, school shootings, like the one in Columbine and the most recent one in Connecticut, are all the basis for training scenarios and the use is not uncommon. They are in fact what teach us to respond to incidents in the future.

As a result of last year’s Trayvon Martin shooting, a company offered for sale a target of a faceless silhouette wearing a hoodie with its hands in its pockets, one of which was holding two objects, these objects in the hand were non-threatening and the target was something that I viewed as a no-shoot situation.

While others used it as a novelty, I view it as a tool for scenario based firearms training. Although to date, the targets have never been used, I did possess the targets for those training reasons.

On April second, I was discussing the training needs for my agency’s officers with another sergeant and I mentioned that I had these training aids. I showed the sergeant what I was referring to and instead of commenting as to whether or not he thought they would be useful, he chuckled and he stated that he would, I’m paraphrasing, his son would, and I’m paraphrasing, get a kick out of one of those because he often wears a hoodie and that when he does, he tells his son, ‘Be careful, Trayvon.’ Apparently, he jokes with his son about the Trayvon Martin incident.

While others like myself choose to look for training methods to prevent another such situation. I did offer the sergeant one of the targets to give to his son. Instead, he asked if he could take a picture of it and send it to his son on his phone.

In hindsight, and not taking into account the situation, I should have not offered the target to him, and I should not have allowed the picture. For that I do apologize. To my knowledge, the sergeant did not send the picture to his son. Instead, he used it to file a complaint with my agency’s human resources department.

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