MEMPHIS, TN— U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis says the murder of Trayvon Martin is a hate crime. The 17 year old was gunned down in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Martin was unarmed and so far no charges have been filed against the shooter. Congressman Cohen says having the federal government involved is the only way to get justice in this type of crime.
It's 2012 and many believe racism is still very much alive. The answer to solve racism is not so black and white but in the case of Trayvon Martin, Cohen says it was white versus black.
"There was some broadcast he used racial epithet in talking with the dispatcher about the victim and there's also some indications that he had an obsession with black males and followed many people in the community, it was kind of like he was a vigilante,” said Congressman Cohen.
Florida police say George Zimmerman shot and killed 17 year old Treyvon Martin. Zimmerman told authorities it was self defense. Investigators say the only things Martin had in his hands were a bag of skittles, a can of iced tea, and he was wearing a hooded sweater.
"That's absurd, it's absurd. I wear a coat with a hood,” Cohen told abc24 news. “If nothing else it was racial profiling. Racial profiling is linked to hate crime."
For that reason Cohen wants the Department of Justice to get involved.
"He's dead because a man who took the law in his own hands apparently often times following African American youth males had a suspicion that he was up to no good. That basis of that suspicion that got in this psycho’s mind was based on race,” said Cohen.
Trayvon Martin's death sparked national interest, even grabbing the president's attention.
"I can only imagine what these parents are going through. If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon,” President Barack Obama said on Friday during a Rose Garden ceremony.
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said in an interview with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, he was disturbed by the president's comments about race and that this tragedy has nothing to do with color. Cohen disagrees.
"If this was a black gentleman who had shot a white man there's no question that there's probable cause,” Cohen said.
If the Department of Justice takes this case and the shooter is convicted of a hate crime it carries a sentence of life in prison.