News Column

Cop Allegedly Uses 'Trayvon' as Target, Gets Canned

April 15, 2013

A police officer in Florida accused of bringing targets resembling the slain Trayvon Martin to a gun range has been fired.

Port Canaveral interim chief executive officer John Walsh told WFTV on Saturday that Sgt. Ron King was leading a target practice with two other officers and a civilian when he pulled out the targets on April 4. Walsh said King asked the group whether they wanted to use the targets, and they said no.

But King, a firearms instructor, denied in a video posted on YouTube that he suggested anyone shoot at the target, which features a faceless silhouette of a person in a hoodie holding a beverage can and a pack of Skittles candy tucked in a pocket. A bull's-eye appears on its chest.

Trayvon, 17, was wearing a hoodie and carrying Skittles and a can of iced tea on Feb. 26, 2012, when he was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 28, in a case that led to protests over race and self-defense gun laws. Port Canaveral is about 60 miles from Sanford, where Martin was killed.

King, in his video, referred to the target as "no-shoot training aid" and said it should be used only as an example of a situation where an officer should not fire his gun.

"Using real-life situations as a training scenario is not uncommon," King said.

King apologized to Trayvon's family and to any law enforcement professionals who may have been embarrassed by the publicity swirling around the incident. He accused an unnamed officer of inventing details of the incident to damage the credibility of the police department's leadership.

The Port Canaveral Police Department, which conducted an internal investigation, fired King on Friday, according to port officials.

"I remain a professional law enforcement officer and a professional firearms instructor," said King, who can appeal his dismissal. "I refuse to sit by while others use the Martin family and myself as a way to further their own political and career agendas."

Walsh was unmoved by what King had to say.

"I found the entire situation unacceptable," he said. "It is not the type of behavior that I want a police officer to have on both a personal and professional level."

Walsh also apologized to Trayvon's family, which has argued that the black teen was targeted and murdered. Zimmerman says he shot Trayvon in self-defense after being attacked. Zimmerman, who faces a second-degree murder charge, is set to go on trial June 10.

Source: Copyright Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA) 2013

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