Calls for arrest of gunman who killed teenager

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Civil rights leaders in the United States have demanded the arrest of a neighbourhood watch helper who went free after shooting dead an unarmed black teenager who was walking home after buying sweets.

The FBI is now investigating the incident in Florida, following a public outcry.

At a public meeting in the town of Sanford, where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot last month, officials from the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and the Nation of Islam urged residents to remain calm but to demand the gunman is arrested.

George Zimmerman has not been charged over the shooting on February 26 and has claimed he shot Trayvon Martin, who was returning to a gated community after buying sweets at a convenience store, in self-defence after the teenager attacked him.

He saw the boy as he was patrolling his neighbourhood and called the police to report a suspicious person. Against the advice of the operator, Mr Zimmerman then followed the teenager.

The case has ignited a furore against the police in the Orlando suburb, prompting rallies and a protest in governor Rick Scott’s office. The US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said it was sending its community relations service to Sanford to “address tension in the community.”

The federal agency has opened a civil rights investigation.

Benjamin Crum, a lawyer for Trayvon Martin’s family, revealed the teenager told his girlfriend on his phone moments before he was killed that he was being followed.

“Oh he’s right behind me, he’s right behind me again,” he told her. The girl later heard him say, “Why are you following me?” Another man asked, “What are you doing around here?’”

The phone call ended before the girl heard gunshots.

Police said Mr Zimmerman, who was found bleeding from his nose and back of his head, told them he yelled for help before shooting the boy. He was arrested and questioned but released without charge.