The relationship between the boy's family and police deteriorated from the start. Trayvon's family believed the police department deliberately covered up Zimmerman's past arrest record, portraying him as having a clean record because he had no convictions. The family filed a lawsuit to force the department to release 911 tapes in the incident, but felt the department was eager to release information that was favorable to Zimmerman.
Witnesses whose account differed from Zimmerman's said their calls were not returned, and it was Trayvon's dad who discovered a key witness, a girl who was talking to Trayvon on the telephone moments before the shooting.
The parents and their attorney, Benjamin Crump, met Thursday afternoon with U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Robert O'Neill, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Roy Austin Jr. and other representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The agency's civil rights division, the FBI, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are reviewing the case.
"First and foremost, we extended and continue to extend our deepest condolences to the family for their loss," the DOJ said in a statement.
The national pressure over a perceived bungling of the investigation was ultimately too much for city officials, who are bracing for another mass rally at a commission meeting Monday. In an attempt to get in front of the planned events, the city parks department set up a mobile stage and seating for 700 people for Thursday night's rally.
Hundreds of people streamed in, some wearing shirts emblazoned with Trayvon's image, or Zimmerman's mug shot from his 2005 arrest, and the phrase, "Arrest him."
"Chief is gone, Zimmerman is next!" the crowd chanted.
Protester Michael Crevier, a musician from Orlando, said the chief needs to step down permanently.
More rallies are expected Friday in Miami-Dade, where students from at least three high schools staged walk-outs Thursday. More than 1,000 students walked out of Carol City Senior High School, where Trayvon attended his freshman and part of his sophomore year.
"I felt like we were bringing him justice, being his voice," said Chauncey Davis, 17, who carried a poster that said, "Murder is Murder."
As more than half the student body peacefully walked out of the north Miami-Dade high school, the principal took to a loudspeaker to express support but ask that the protest remain peaceful.
Text messages prompted students at Northwestern and Norland high schools to stage similar walkouts.
"Besides the fact that he attended our school, someone got shot, and nothing seems to be happening," said Imir Hall, a senior at Carol City. "The police don't seem too interested or eager to investigate. ... I'm not asking for the guy who killed him to be killed. I just want him to have a fair trial."
During the walkout, Trayvon's mother called school principal Jamarv Dunn and said she would rather see students attend organized rallies, sign petitions and pray, according to John Schuster, spokesman for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
The school gave the students permission to gather on the athletic field but did not give them permission to leave campus -- they did that on their own, he said.
"I didn't know (Trayvon) but it doesn't matter," Cadijah Anderson, 17, said. "Segregation was gone a long time ago and racism was supposed to be gone too, but it seems like it's getting worse."
(Miami Herald staff writers Jay Weaver, Laura Isensee, Marc Caputo and Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this story.)
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