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Dr. Boyce Watkins Headshot

When Unarmed Teens Are Shot for 'Looking Suspicious,' We Should All Be Outraged

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Like any other black man who doesn't walk around with a gun on his waist, I found myself confused and disturbed by the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.  Martin, who was unarmed, was shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman last week after an altercation.

As the son of a police officer, I understand the need to use deadly force, even if the defendant happens to be black.  But in this case, I don't see a police officer, I see a security guard.  The use of deadly force by a neighborhood watchman is enough to create suspicion in the mind of anyone with a working brain.

The second thing I noticed about the case of Trayvon Martin is that he was unarmed.  This wasn't a shootout.  It wasn't some innocent victim being robbed at gunpoint.  This was the case of an armed security guard shooting a black man who had nothing to defend himself but his fists.

The next thing I noticed about the Trayvon Martin shooting is that it appears that the boy was simply being stalked by the security guard on his way to his father's house.  Zimmerman felt that Martin somehow had a suspicious profile and then proceeded to follow him on the way home. So, if anything, we can say that this unarmed black teenager was being terrorized by a night watchman who somehow thought that he "looked suspicious" for inexplicable reasons. There is nothing illegal about Martin fighting Zimmerman if he was indeed being harassed or physically assaulted for no reason.  Martin wasn't hitting a police officer -- he was hitting a security guard.

Finally, there is the fact that neighbors have long complained that Zimmerman was an overzealous security guard who took his job entirely too seriously.  Rather than doing anything about it, the management of the gated community chose to leave the lives of its residents in the hands of an unprofessional stooge.  Now, an innocent life is lost because of this decision.

So, had it not been for the irresponsibility of those who chose Zimmerman for this job, Trayvon Martin would be alive, looking forward to having a full life.  He would later go on to college, get married, have children, pursue a long career and even have grand kids.  But now, none of that is going to happen because a neighborhood watchman thought that Martin looked suspicious and decided to shoot him.

Someone needs to get sued and someone needs to go to prison.  Had Martin shot Zimmerman in his own neighborhood after following him because he thought he looked suspicious, he'd be going to prison for the rest of his life.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, "Black American Money." To have Dr. Boyce's commentary delivered to your email, please click here.