An unarmed 17-year-old high school junior named Trayvon Martin is killed in a Florida neighborhood. A special report in this week's issue of PEOPLE examines how Martin's chance encounter with crime-watch volunteer George Zimmerman turned deadly – leaving a family devastated and a country outraged. Plus: exclusive family photos from Trayvon's parents.
On Feb. 26 Trayvon's unwavering taste for hoodie couture may have proved deadly. While visiting Sanford, Florida, Trayvon walked to a 7-Eleven, armed only with change, and bought a can of Arizona ice tea and a bag of Skittles, then headed back to the gated community where his father's girlfriend lives. A lanky 6'3" and 140 lbs., Trayvon caught the eye of George Zimmerman, 28, a local crime-watch volunteer, who phoned 911 and said, "This guy looks like he's up to no good." Asked what the suspect was wearing, Zimmerman responded, "A dark hoodie." What happened next remains unclear – and is at the heart of a furor sweeping the country as people demand Zimmerman's arrest. This much is indisputable: There were cries of "Help," then Zimmerman fired two bullets from a semiautomatic handgun, one of which fatally struck the teen in the chest.
Now the U.S. Justice Department and FBI have launched investigations. While people across the country awaited charges, they held marches and vigils, demanding to know why an unarmed youth with a reputation as a "good kid" had been slain. Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, 46, a local government employee, told PEOPLE, at times weeping, at times angry, "People want to make this a black and white issue, but I believe that this is about right and wrong. No one should be shot just because someone else thinks they're suspicious."
And no one should receive news of a slain son the way Trayvon's divorced parents did. When Trayvon remained missing the next morning, his father, (Tracy Martin, 45) phoned the sheriff's department. "Someone told me she'd send a police unit to help me file a missing persons report," he tells PEOPLE. Instead three police cars pulled up, and officers asked to see a photo of Martin's son. After he accessed an image on his cell phone, one cop shook his head. "He said, 'I'm going to show you a photo, and you tell me if this is your son,'" says Martin. "It was a picture of my son, dead."
As Fulton and Martin wait for April 10, the date a grand jury is scheduled to convene, they're trying to keep the focus on obtaining justice for Trayvon. "This is about my son," says Fulton, her voice rising in anger. "I don't want him to get lost in this." Trayvon's dad feels the same way. "I want his death to have an impact," he says. "I want it to be known Trayvon made a difference."
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Jon Hamm: "The Only Reality Shows That I Like Are Ones Where People Create Something"
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Check out the new issue of People Magazine, on newsstands everywhere now, and check out People.com for even more.