Obama says Martin’s death a tragedy, asks nation to respect call for calm

Posted on: 1:40 pm, July 14, 2013, by , updated on: 02:43pm, July 14, 2013

File photo of Trayvon Martin. Image courtesy Jerome Martin via CNN

File photo of Trayvon Martin. Image courtesy Jerome Martin via CNN

By Dan Merica

CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama called on Sunday for “calm reflection” following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

The president, in a statement, acknowledged an emotionally charged climate but concluded that “we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.”

Obama called Martin’s death a tragedy for America.

“I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher,” he said.

“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.

“We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis,” Obama said.

A Florida jury on Saturday night found Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in a shooting that grew from a confrontation as Martin, 17, walked home from a convenience store in February 2012.

The verdict closed a case that gained national attention and sparked public outcry, much of which focused on race. Reaction generated protests across the United States, including outside the White House.

Obama said in closing his statement that Americans asking “ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this” is one way “to honor Trayvon Martin.”

Groups disappointed with the jury’s decision have asked the Obama administration to pursue a civil rights prosecution against Zimmerman, 29.

The NAACP has called on the Justice Department to file civil rights charges and is asking the public to sign a petition to support their cause.

In a statement on Sunday, the Justice Department said its civil rights investigation of the case continues and it will look at evidence and testimony from the just-concluded state trial as part of the probe.

“Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate,” the statement said.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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