Attorney General Eric Holder gestures during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, April 11, 2012.
Attorney General Eric Holder gestures during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, April 11, 2012.

A special prosecutor in the U.S. state of Florida has filed criminal charges against a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed an unarmed African American teenager in February. The charge against George Zimmerman is the latest development in a case that has drawn national attention and cast a spotlight on race and self-defense laws. VOA's Chris Simkins has more on the story.

Key Dates in Trayvon Martin Case

  • February 26: George Zimmerman shoots, kills 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman not arrested
  • March 16: Sanford police release recording of emergency call made during the confrontation
  • March 21: Thousands march in New York in support of Martin
  • March 23: President Obama calls for thorough investigation
  • April 10: Zimmerman's lawyers pull out, say they lost contact with client
  • April 11: Zimmerman charged with 2nd degree murder

Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey said there's enough evidence to file murder charges against George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

"Today we filed an information charging George Zimmerman with murder in the second degree," Corley said.

At a news conference in Jacksonville, Florida Wednesday, Corey would not discuss evidence in the case but said it is enough to win a conviction.

"This is the conclusion we came to based on our review of the facts and evidence," Corey said.

Authorities said Zimmerman has turned himself in but police refuse to disclose where he is for his safety.  He will be held in jail until a court bond hearing.

Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self defense after spotting him in a gated community where Martin's father lives. Zimmerman initially called police to say he was following a suspicious person.

DISPATCHER: "Are you following him?
DISPATCHER: "We don't need you to do that."

Soon afterwards, an confrontation, then a gunshot and Martin was dead.

The shooting sparked a national outcry led by Martin?s parents who insist their son was murdered. They also accuse Zimmerman of targeting their son because he was black. Police did not initially charge Zimmerman with a crime because of a Florida law that says a person has a right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force.

Trayvon Martin?s parents in Washington said they are relieved.

"I have been up and down as if I was on a roller coaster. But I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt justice will be served," said Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother.

Tensions have been running high in the small community of Sanford, Florida, since the shooting.

For weeks demonstrators have taken to the streets calling for Zimmerman's  arrest. Legal analyst say Zimmerman now will likely invoke the Stand Your Ground law as his defense and a judge could decide if the case should go to trial. If convicted Zimmerman could face a sentence of up to life in prison.