[UPDATED] Shooting of Unarmed Black Teen Raises Questions of Police Conduct in Orlando Suburb

Trayvon Martin
Trayvon Martin, 17, was unarmed when shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain on Feb. 26, 2012.

UPDATE: A grand jury will hear evidence next month in the shooting, The New York Times Reported Tuesday.

UPDATE: On Monday, March 19, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice opened an investigation into Martin’s death, MSNBC reported.

Questions of police conduct in a small Florida town have arisen following the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white neighborhood watch captain.

Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old junior, was staying at the home of his father’s girlfriend in a gated community in Sanford, an Orlando suburb. According to an ABC News investigation, Martin was returning from the store with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea when he was confronted by George Zimmerman, 28.

Zimmerman described Martin as suspicious because he was “wearing a hooded sweatshirt and walking slowly in the rain,” ABC News reported.

Zimmerman called a non-emergency police number to report the suspicious person. Police instructed him to wait in his car until a police cruiser arrived. Moments later, however, he exited his vehicle and pursued Martin.

ABC News report:

Witnesses told ABC News a fist fight broke out and at one point Zimmerman, who outweighed Martin by more than 100 pounds, was on the ground and that Martin was on top.

Austin Brown, 13, was walking his dog during the time of the altercation and saw both men on the ground but separated.

Brown along with several other residents heard someone cry for help, just before hearing a gunshot. Police arrived 60 seconds later and the teen was quickly pronounced dead.

Zimmerman maintains he shot the teen in self-defense and has not been charged with a crime.

Black community leaders in Sanford and others around the web have voiced concerns over how the local police have handled the case, reigniting racial tensions in a community with a rocky past.

When Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. took over the job last summer, he vowed to clean up the agency that had lost the confidence of many community members following a scandal involving an assault on a black homeless man by an officer’s son, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

A witness to Martin’s shooting told ABC News she was corrected by a Sanford officer after reporting she heard Martin cry for help prior to the shooting.

Since Martin’s death on Feb. 26, a Change.org petition calling for Zimmerman to face charges and for the case to be handed over to Florida’s District Attorney Office to investigate has received more than 200,000 signatures and the tally is still rising. More than 500 signatures were added during the writing of this article.

On Tuesday, Sanford authorities turned the investigation over to the Seminole-Brevard County State Attorney’s Office.

UPDATE: On Monday, March 19, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice opened an investigation into the Martin’s death, MSNBC reported.