President Barack Obama urged Americans to keep calm in the wake of Saturday's jury verdict finding George Zimmerman not guilty of charges associated with the controversial shooting death of black teen Trayvon Martin.
"I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher," Obama said Sunday in a statement. "But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son."
A variety of cities have experienced minor protests following the verdict in the Zimmerman case, which a jury read on Saturday. Zimmerman faced charges of second-degree murder in the Feb. 26, 2012 shooting death of Martin. A jury found him not guilty on that charge, but also the lesser charge of manslaughter — an option available to the jury.
The investigation and prosecution of Zimmerman developed into a national flashpoint for race relations in the United States. Nodding to that fact, Obama commented amid the initial investigation of the shooting, saying that if he had a son, "he'd look like Trayvon."
Obama urged Americans to ask themselves tough questions about the incident and subsequent verdict to pay tribute to the slain teenager.
Obama said: "And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin."
George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.