LOS ANGELES (CBS) — George Zimmerman turned himself in to authorities in Sanford Florida Wednesday to face a second-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman was expected to make his first court appearance on Thursday.
It is a case that has riveted the nation, including some Southlanders, who feel a close connection.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer at the center of the national controversy in the killing of 17-year-old Florida teen Trayvon Martin, was transported to a Florida jail after voluntarily surrendering Thursday.
“Today we filed information charging George Zimmerman with murder in the second degree,” said Florida State Attorney Angela Corey at a press conference.
Zimmerman, 28, claims he shot Martin in self-defense six weeks ago. But if convicted, he could get up to life in prison.
His new attorney, Mark O’Mara, urged the public not to rush to judgment.
“He has been charged; he has been arrested; he is a criminal defendant now. Let the process work. Do not, let’s not pre-judge anyone any longer. Let’s just let the process work,” O’Mara said.
Martin’s family watched the announcement that charges would be filed in the case and expressed relief.
“We wanted nothing more and nothing less. We just wanted an arrest and we got it. And I say thank you,” said Trayvon’s mother Sybrina Fulton.
The Martin Family Attorney called for the public to remain calm.
“We are imploring everybody to be peaceful,” Benjamin Crump said.
Zimmerman said he got into a fight with Martin, as the teenager walked through a gated community in Sanford Florida.
“He was rational to me. He understood what I was saying, I understood what he was saying, we’re communicating well,” O’Mara said, describing his client’s state of mind.
In Southern California the leader of the NAACP’s Pasadena chapter said that there are a lot of similarities between the Florida shooting case and the recent police shooting of a teenager in Pasadena, who also died. But there were some dissimilarities as well.
“The difference in Pasadena and Sanford is Sanford Florida received national attention immediately. What we’ve tried to do here in Pasadena is to maintain it on a local level, listening and believing that our local officials are going to do what they said. But it appears that every day there is something that says, ‘just hold on, just wait,’” said NAACP Pasadena President Joe Brown.
The architects of a Trayvon Martin demonstration in L.A.’s Pershing Square earlier in the week said that they were thrilled that the nationwide protest had some impact.
“Very, very, very excited about all the hard work that we all did nationwide, the grassroots efforts of the protests and rallies to bring about attention that it required to get an arrest. Unfortunately it required that, but we did it and we got it,” activist Zsanae Davis said.
“Well I think it means that, you know, justice is prevailing and I think that is really important for people to see that we can get justice,” added activist Bernadette Holder.
They added that while they’re encourages that charges were brought today, they are wary about the process moving forward, as justice runs its course.
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