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NEWS

Trayvon Martin case is a black eye for Sanford

As public scrutiny mounts, the city of Sanford struggles with its reputation

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King says she lost another grandson, who was 19, to murder a year ago. “He was gunned down,” she said. “They say he was robbing a man, but he was shot in the back. They know who did it, but they didn't arrest him.”

Likewise, Rebecca Wright said at the hearing, her son was killed in 2010, and his killer was allowed to go free because he thought he was being followed, felt threatened and shot her son. After the incident, she says, she saw her son's photo in the news. “They said he had a troubled past,” she says. “But he was still my son.

Self-defense. It's the same reason George Zimmerman wasn't arrested for the Feb. 26 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Ever since that shooting, the world has been watching Sanford. Over the past several weeks, the city and its leaders have come under intense scrutiny in the wake of what many say is a botched investigation of the shooting and a stubborn refusal by anyone to arrest Zimmerman for killing the unarmed teen.

City leaders have been scrambling to respond to the sudden and intense response from civil rights leaders, protesters and community members who've accused the city's police department of being intolerant, its leaders of being out to lunch and its good ol' boy network of being too accepting of policies that foster dated racist attitudes. The city's police department has stopped taking press inquiries about the Martin case altogether, according to a statement on the city of Sanford's website. Questions related to Trayvon Martin's shooting are now being directed to the state's attorney's office in Jacksonville.

Longtime residents of the city say they aren't surprised by the recent turn of events. Some say they've seen it coming. In fact, to people like Lula King, the firestorm that's hit Sanford is not only warranted – it's long overdue.

“I'm going to pray to God to bring justice to this town,” she said, as the crowd at Allen Chapel murmured in approval. “They put these black boys in jail on all these bogus charges, and it's just not true. … There is so much corruption in the police department, they as crooked as a barrel of fishhooks. … I pray every night for the truth.”

Hannibal Duncan says he was driving down Route 46 in Sanford one night, when “for whatever reason, I peered down an alleyway, and I thought I saw my best buddy's face.” Duncan, who also told his story to the NAACP on March 21, says he pulled into the alley and sure enough, he recognized his friend and a group of Sanford police officers.

“I saw them slamming him against their car, but they're not arresting him, they're just beating him,” Duncan says. He says police told him that his friend had been involved in an altercation in a nearby club, and after he interrupted them, they arrested his friend and put him in the cop car. His friend filed a complaint against the police for using excessive force, Duncan says, but “that complaint went nowhere.”

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