The following article was online and in hard copy print in The Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday, March 21. Though many of you probably saw it on Facebook, I thought I would keep a record of it here and add the photo that accompanied the print edition (but not the online edition). As of Thursday morning, the article had been shared by many friends on FB walls, and surprisingly, the Sentinel site records 354 “shares” and 215 “facebook recommends” — an indication of the story’s weight locally and nationally. One friend in Australia lamented that his home town was in the paper (in a very negative light) in Sydney Australia!
P.S. The editors always choose the title.  🙂


My Word: Father of black and white sons wants answers in Trayvon’s death

By Michael S. Beates | Special to the Sentinel

March 21, 2012

The tragic case of Trayvon Martin begs for answers.

The 17-year-old black youth was fatally shot last month by a Hispanic crime-watch volunteer in a gated Sanford community.

I have four sons raised in Seminole County: two white, by natural birth, and two black, through adoption. This case hits home — not just close to home — for their mother and me. If either of my white sons had been walking in that neighborhood that evening, hood up in a drizzling rain, I am confident they would not have been shot. But I wonder now, if either of my black sons had been walking there, whether either might have lost his life that night. This is profoundly troubling.

If this neighborhood-crime-watch volunteer had followed the 911 dispatcher’s order to stay in his car, this black youth would not have been shot by George Zimmerman. Period. End of story.

But Zimmerman did leave his car, an altercation did ensue, and Trayvon was shot. Why Zimmerman has not been arrested is confounding. Perhaps the Sanford Police Department is being silent, waiting for federal investigators to take over. But the silence only foments more and more protest, more and more suspicion.

Mike Beates (third from left) with sons Jameson (27), Eli (19), Abraham (24), and Josiah (18).

The released 911 recordings, far from clarifying, only fuel the fires of want for answers.

Questions begging for answers:

Why would a teenager with a pocket full of Skittles and an iced tea initiate an altercation with an unknown man? Did Trayvon see a drawn gun and fear for his life?

Why, if Zimmerman was screaming for his life, did his screams for help stop immediately after a shot was fired? Why did he not follow the clear instruction of the 911 dispatcher?

What situation was so life-threatening in Zimmerman’s eyes to cause him to leave his car? How far away from Zimmerman’s car was the scene of the altercation and shooting? An armed man leaves his car to follow (pursue?) an unknown (suspicious?) boy who ends up dead.

If the Sanford Police have information that exonerates Zimmerman and implicates Martin, the department needs to release it, or arrest Zimmerman. It is that simple. No happy ending to this story is on the way.

But one thing remains true: If Zimmerman had waited in his car as instructed, Trayvon Martin would likely be alive today. The black community is protesting. But every other ethnicity should be equally concerned that justice prevail here.

For this father of black and white sons, complete disclosure from authorities cannot come too soon.

Michael S. Beates lives in Winter Park.