President Obama on Sunday called the death of Trayvon Martin a “tragedy for America” but urged people to remain calm, in his first public remarks since a jury Saturday night acquitted the man who fatally shot the Florida teen.
The president acknowledged the not-guilty verdict has elicited strong emotions across the country but said “the jury has spoken” and that Americans should respect the “call for calm reflection” by Martin’s parents.
“In the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher,” Obama said. “But we are a nation of laws.”
Martin's death in February 2012 sparked a national debate over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice. There have been several rallies and protests since the verdict but most have been peaceful.
The president said days after Martin, a black 17-year-old, was fatally shot by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman that if he had a son “he would look like Trayvon.”
Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Obama also said Americans should ask themselves if they're doing all they can to stem gun violence, and what can be done to prevent future tragedies like the Florida shooting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.