President Barack Obama (left) and Trayvon Martin
Olivier Douliery/Getty; Reuters/Landov
03/23/2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
President Barack Obama on Friday addressed the killing of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who on Feb. 26 was shot dead in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., as he returned home from a 7-Eleven store with a packet of Skittles and bottle of iced tea.
"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said during a press gathering in the Rose Garden, after he was asked about the incident that has sparked national debate.
The President prefaced his remarks by saying he had "to be careful about my statements to make sure that we're not impairing any investigation that's taking place right now."
"Obviously, this is a tragedy," said the President. "I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and everybody pulls together – federal, state and local – to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened."
Rallies across the country have called for the arrest of Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, 28, a Hispanic volunteer watch captain who saw the teenager during one of his patrols of the neighborhood. Zimmerman claims he shot Martin, who was wearing a hoodie, in self-defense during a confrontation, although in a 911 recording that has since surfaced it sounds as if the teen were pleading for his life.
Zimmerman has evaded arrest by evoking Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which provides individuals strong leeway to claim self defense in incidents involving a firearm.
Added President Obama: "I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen. And that means we examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident."