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Saturday, July 13, 2013
George Zimmerman Verdict Reaction: South Florida Leaders Predict Calm
With a verdict looming in the nationally televised trial over the killing of South Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, local community leaders are bracing for an emotional reaction to the jurors' decision -- but predicting calm.
Pastors, youth leaders and police officials have been preparing for the public's response, especially if Sanford neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman is found not guilty of both second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Martin, 17, of Miami Gardens.
"There is a bit of uneasiness," said the Rev. Gary McCleod, pastor of Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Pompano Beach. "Especially young people -- people the age of Trayvon Martin -- they are following this more than any trial in a long, long time.
"I believe that folks will demonstrate, but not to the point it will get out of hand," McCleod said. "No riots or anything like that. Maybe some outbursts."
Jurors were expected to start deliberating Friday afternoon, with a verdict possible as early as nightfall Friday.
The killing occurred in February 2012, and the case quickly became charged with race.
Zimmerman said he fired in self-defense when he fatally shot Martin. Still, the teenager's death last year turned into a top news story across the U.S., when more than a million people signed a petition, outraged that Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, had shot an unarmed black teen in a gated community and not been arrested. By Mike Clary and Adam Sacasa