Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trayvon Martin Killing: 911 Tape Reveals Possible Racial Slur by Neighborhood Watchman

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The Florida police department handling the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by a self-appointed neighborhood watch leader admitted to ABC News tonight that investigators missed a possible racist remark by the shooter as he spoke to police dispatchers moments before the killing.
The admission comes a day after the Justice Department announced that it has launched an investigation of the slaying of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman last month as a possible hate crime.
On a tape of one of Zimmerman's 911 calls the night of the shooting, he is heard saying under his breath what sounds like "f**ing coons." Seconds later he confronted Martin and after a brief scuffle shot him dead.
Zimmerman claimed self defense, and was not charged with any crime.
It's the latest in a series of possible police missteps uncovered by ABC News.
The Sanford Police Department has come under withering criticism for failing to reach out to Martin's girlfriend, who was talking to the teen on his cell phone and heard the altercation with Zimmerman take place.
Among other issues, police have been criticized for:
Withholding a batch of telling 911 calls, including the one revealing Zimmerman's possible racist remark.
Sending a narcotics detective to the scene, instead of a homicide detective, as is typical for homicides.
And failing to administer a drug and alcohol test to Zimmerman that night, which homicide investigator Rod Wheeler called a "fatal flaw in the investigation."
"The fact that Mr. Zimmerman was not given a toxicology test or breathalyzer examination is huge. Very huge," Wheeler said. He also wondered why Zimmerman's vehicle was not investigated or impounded.
The Sanford Police Department says it stands by its investigation, and that it was not race or incompetence that prevented it from arresting Zimmerman but the law.
Martin had left his father's fiance's home to buy a pack of skittles at a convenience store. On the way back he called his 16-year-old girlfriend. She was on the phone with him as he told her about a man following him.
"He said this man was watching him," the girl recounted. "So he put his hoodie on, said he lost the man. I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast, I told him to run but he said was not going to run."
But the man would catch up to Trayvon, she recalled.
"Trayvon said, 'What are you following me for?' and the man said, 'What are you doing here?' Next thing I hear is somebody pushing and somebody push Trayvon, because the headset just fell," she said. "I called him again and he didn't answer the phone."

7.4 quake hits Mexico, damaging hundreds of homes

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A strong 7.4-magnitude earthquake hit southern Mexico on Tuesday, damaging some 800 homes near the epicenter and swaying tall buildings and spreading fear and panic hundreds of miles away in the capital of Mexico City.
One of the strongest to shake Mexico since the deadly 1985 temblor that killed thousands in Mexico City, Tuesday's earthquake hit hardest in border area of southern Oaxaca and Guerrero states. In Guerrero, officials confirmed that some 800 homes had been damaged, with another 60 having collapsed.
Hours after the shaking at noon local time (18:02 GMT), there were still no reports of death or serious injury, even after a less powerful, magnitude-5.1 aftershock was felt in the capital and several other aftershocks near the epicenter in a mountainous rural region.
"It was very strong, very substantial," said Campos Benitez, hospital director in Ometepec, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the epicenter.
Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre, who is from Ometepec, was headed there to survey the damage and ordered emergency crews and civil protection to the area to help with the damage. The state did not say how many were displaced.
In Mexico City, frightened workers and residents poured into the streets of the capital. Telephone service was down in the city and throughout the area where the quake was felt and some neighborhoods were without power, according to Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who set up a hotline for people to report damage.
A pedestrian bridge collapsed on an empty transit bus.
About 40 passengers were stranded for a short time on the Mexico City airport air train, but later released. The airport closed for a time but officials said there was no runway damage and they resumed operations.
Samantha Rodriguez, a 37-year old environmental consultant, was evacuated from the 11th floor on the Angel Tower office building.
"I thought it was going to pass rapidly but the walls began to thunder and we decided to get out," she said.
Mexico City, built on a lake bed, was badly damaged in 1985 when an 8.1 earthquake killed at least 10,000 people. In past years, Guerrero has suffered several severe earthquakes, including a 7.9 in 1957 which killed an estimated 68 people, and a 7.4 in 1995 which left three dead.
Tuesday's quake was the strongest shaking felt in the capital since a magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck also in Guerrero in December. Officials said at least three people died in Guerrero, but there were no reports of widespread damage.
A magnitude-8.0 quake near Manzanillo on Mexico's central Pacific coast killed 51 people in 1995 and a magintude-7.5 quake killed at least 20 people in the southern state of Oaxaca in 1999.
In Huajuapan, Guerrero, near the epicenter, hotel manager Marco Antonio Estrada also reported shaken-up guests but no major damage. He said it was longest and strongest he ever felt. People ran out of their homes and cars.
"It was very strong, but we didn't see anything fall," said Irma Ortiz, who runs a guesthouse in Oaxaca. She said their telephones are down, and that the quake shook them side-to-side.
U.S. President Barack Obama's oldest daughter, Malia, was reported and safe while on vacation with a school group in Oaxaca.
The U.S. Geological Survey set the preliminary magnitude of the first quake at 7.4 and said the epicenter was 11 miles underground. The survey set the aftershock at 5.1.
Seismologists and civil protection officials said there didn't appear to be heavy damage or casualties because of where and how the earthquake hit.
There were reports of damaged buildings but none collapsed on the Oaxaca side of the border, said civil protection spokeswoman Cynthia Tovar said. Authorities believed that the absence of tall buildings in the area is one reason.
Another factor may be the high frequency of earthquakes in the region, said USGS seismologist Susan Hoover.
There have been 15 earthquakes of magnitude 7 or stronger since 1973 within 310 miles (500 kilometers) of Tuesday's quake. Weaker buildings collapse with each quake, leaving a cadre of stronger ones that can withstand the shaking.
"Another factor to consider is how tested an area has been," Hoover said.
Groups of women hugged and cried at Mexico City's Angel of Independence monument, where hundreds of people evacuated from office buildings said they never had felt such a strong earthquake. Others typed ferociously on their BlackBerrys.
Mexico City's airport was closed for a short time but there was no damage to runways and operations were returning to normal.
In Oaxaca, Sylvia Valencia was teaching Spanish to five adult students at the Vinigulaza language school when the earthquake hit.
"Some of us sat down, others ran out," she said. "It was hard, it was strong and it was long."
After the shaking stopped, however, she said they found no damage, not in their own classrooms, nor outside in the historical center of the city, so they went back to class.
Celia Galicia, who works at the U.S. consular office in Oaxaca, had just flown in from Mexico City when it hit.
She said there was panic in the airport, and a dash for the doors. But she said that she saw no damage at the airport and no one was hurt. She says one building in downtown Oaxaca appears to be damaged and has been evacuated.
She added that they've had two strong aftershocks, and that in downtown Oaxaca most people are out on the street at this point.
"It started shaking badly," she said.
Associated Press writers Isaac Garrido, Olga R. Rodriguez, E. Eduardo Castillo and Mark Stevenson contributed from Mexico City, Sergio Flores from Acapulco and Martha Mendoza from Santa Cruz, California.

New York Republican wins key 3rd-party nod in Senate bid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's Conservative Party nominated a strong social and fiscal conservative, Wendy Long, as its Senate candidate on Monday -- handing Long's Republican Party bid a significant boost but also threatening to divide Republican voters.
The endorsement from the small but influential party was a coveted prize sought by all three Republican candidates, who will face off in a June 26 primary. The winner of that race will run as the GOP candidate in November U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, in a bid to be the first Republican to win a senatorial contest in New York since 1992.
Long, a New York City lawyer who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, described herself as a committed conservative who would bring a clear contrast in a race against Gillibrand, whom she called a "rubber-stamp" for President Barack Obama.
"I've got some news for the senator: she has maxed out her credit with New Yorkers and her Washington spending spree is about to end," said Long, adding that she would vote to repeal Obama's health care package, support tax cuts and would push for an overhaul of the country's energy policy.
Asked if she would remain in the race -- running on the conservative party's ballot line --even if she were to lose the Republican party primary, Long said she would.
"I promised the conservatives that I'm in the race till November, and I'm in the race till November," said Long.
The two other Republican candidates are Representative Bob Turner, who last year won an upset victory to fill New York City's congressional seat left vacant when Anthony Weiner resigned in a sex scandal, and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos. Both appeared the Conservatives' meeting on Monday. The nomination was somewhat unexpected since the Conservative Party chairman, Michael Long, has shared a decades-long friendship with Turner and was a key backer last year when Turner decided to run for congress.
Turner's upset win last September against a well-known Democrat in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one garnered national headlines and was seen as a referendum on Obama's economic and foreign policies.
But the victory was short-lived: this month, the district became a casualty in the state's once-per-decade redrawing of district lines. It was only then that Turner decided to enter the Senate race.
"In New York, (Republicans) have a ... registration disadvantage. I've been able to overcome that, and I intend to do that again," Turner told reporters on Monday.
Chairman Long, who is not related to Wendy Long, said the decision, which he said caused him "heartache," came down to Turner entering the race too late. "Not only did he come to the table too late... (Wendy Long) stands, head and shoulders, in all honesty, as a stronger candidate than he does," the party chairman said. "We're not in the business of just letting people rearrange the deck chairs."
Monday also marked the state's Democratic party's nominating convention, where Democrats formally threw their support behind Gillibrand to win re-election and her first full six-year term.
Gillibrand was appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated in 2009 by Hillary Clinton, who was named Obama's Secretary of State. The following year Gillibrand won a special election to fill the remainder of the term with a commanding 63 percent of the vote.
Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs said he would welcome a race against any of Gillibrand's potential opponents, saying all of them are too conservative to appeal to New York voters.
"For all three of them, they'd be more successful in a different state in a different century." he said. A January poll by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion found 44 percent of registered voters were unsure which candidate they would vote for. Fewer than four in ten registered voters said they would "definitely" back Gillibrand, while 18 percent said they planned to vote against her, the poll found. Marist has not done a poll of the Republican field.
"I think the best thing she's got going for her is that this will be a presidential election year, turnout will be higher in New York, and the higher the turn-out the better the Democratic advantage in New York," said Marist pollster Lee Miringoff.
Republicans have not won a Senate race in New York since 1992, when Alfonse D'Amato narrowly beat Robert Abrams to earn a third term. D'Amato, however, lost his bid for a fourth term in 1998 to Charles Schumer.
(Reporting By Edith Honan; editing by Dan Burns)