Florida man George Zimmerman, America's favorite gun owner, is once again out of the woods after a the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday it is closing its investigation over whether he violated the civil rights of Trayvon Martin when he fatally shot him in February of 2012.
The aim of the investigation was to determine whether Zimmerman's shooting of Martin, an 18-year-old unarmed black man, was racially motivated, which is not legal, or if Zimmerman was just a jerk, which is legal.
Justice Department officials ultimately determined it was the latter.
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a devastating tragedy. It shook an entire community, drew the attention of millions across the nation, and sparked a painful but necessary dialogue throughout the country,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a news release announcing the decision. “Though a comprehensive investigation found that the high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution cannot be met under the circumstances here, this young man’s premature death necessitates that we continue the dialogue and be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface. We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”
Federal investigators were essentially trying to determine whether it was an overt hate crime, and launched their investigation after Zimmerman was acquitted in the summer of 2013. They combed through "witness statements, crime scene evidence, cell phone data, ballistics reports, reconstruction analysis, medical and autopsy reports, depositions, and the trial record" and conducted their own interviews with witnesses reviewed cell phone and other data.
In the end, they couldn't show beyond a reasonable doubt that it was a hate crime.
Martin's parents, who pushed for the investigation, told the Guardian through their attorney that they are "heartbroken" over the decision not to bring up federal criminal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
“We remain poised to do everything in our power to help eradicate senseless violence in our communities, because we don’t want any other parent to experience the unexplainable loss we have endured,” the family said. “We will never, ever forget what happened to our son, Trayvon, and will honor his memory by working tirelessly to make the world a better place.”