Emotions ran high across the nation Saturday night when George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the 2012 fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
The same emotions were felt in Central Texas, as residents expressed pain and frustration over the jury’s decision.
“I was hurt,” said Aaliyah Poe, 18, of Killeen. “I felt that he should’ve at least got five years since he shot and killed somebody for no reason. Our system today is just messed up.”
Poe is the youth branch president of the NAACP in Killeen.
“All this would have never happened if (Zimmerman) listened to the police, as they told him to stay in his car,” she said. “He didn’t have the authority to pursue (Martin), and I feel all this could’ve been prevented.”
Poe believed the jury, who were all women, was culturally unbalanced and should have further examined all the evidence before deciding Zimmerman’s fate.
“Zimmerman is a man walking free after killing a 17-year-old boy who was unarmed himself,” she said. “I feel that justice has not been served.”
Since the verdict was announced Saturday, the NAACP floated a petition to push the Department of Justice to take criminal civil rights action against Zimmerman. The organization received more than 1 million signatures as of Tuesday afternoon, said TaNeika Driver-Moultrie, Killeen branch NAACP president.
“They did encourage us to remain calm, although we were saddened by the outcome,” Driver-Moultrie said. “There was some frustration, anger, sadness and a lot of hurt and pain as well.”
Driver-Moultrie tracked the case and trial since the shooting occurred.
“Just watching the trial and hearing the testimony and witnesses, the bottom line is that we just want to ensure that no one’s rights are violated,” she said. “So the fact remains that Trayvon Martin was unarmed, he wasn’t causing any trouble, and he was profiled.”
Disheartened by the verdict, Driver-Moultrie was even more saddened to see some boys in her neighborhood wearing hoodies, clothing apparel that many donned to honor Martin’s memory.
“I actually shed tears for about two days because it was just very frustrating to know what (Martin) had to endure on that night, and that justice had not prevailed,” she said.
But not everyone in the community shared Driver-Moultrie’s sentiment about the jury’s decision.
“I feel that if they tried him, he had a fair trial,” said Kim Gilmer of Temple. “If they found him innocent, then they need to let him be and let him live his life.”
Gilmer believes justice was served through adequate due process of the law.
“He’s going to have to live with it for the rest of his life and that in itself is going to be punishment enough for him,” she said. “I think he was trying to protect the neighborhood, and I don’t think it was based on race or anything like that.”
Gilmer believes Zimmerman’s family is bearing the negative impacts of the case.
“I know the families feel different because they feel an injustice was done to their son,” she said. “But the man we’ve got to answer to is upstairs.”
Connie Martin of Nolanville also was satisfied with the verdict.
“I think he had a fair trial,” she said. “I think just because he is Hispanic and the other is colored, and there is people that say it’s racial, well, I don’t (think it was).”
Martin said the community should put the case to rest now that the trial is over.
“I think people should understand that in this day and age, just because they don’t get their way, they can’t just flare up and do all this rioting,” she said. “It’s not fair. I think people need to get a grip ... this is America.”
While Poe’s views are quite different from Martin’s, she also feels the riots that were fueled by the verdict were unnecessary.
“Being African-American, I feel we also have struggles within ourselves, like African-Americans killing other African-Americans, but yet want justice for Trayvon,” she said. “Teenagers just need to take more caution when doing things out in the community.”