Justice for Another Martin

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  • It’s high time black folks started talking about that other guy named Martin.

    For nearly two months, we’ve taken up the cause of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black youth who was followed, stalked and eventually shot to death in Sanford, Fla.

    That’s not how the lawyer for George Zimmerman, who murdered Martin, sees it. But it’s what I’ve gleaned from the things Zimmerman said on police tapes that have since been released.

    Zimmerman admitted to police that he was following Martin. He told a homicide detective that he even followed Martin on foot and lost him.

    Zimmerman claims that he was heading back to his vehicle when Martin confronted and attacked him.

    That happened Feb. 26. Just over a month later, on April 3, Frederick Martin Jr. was cleaning out the garage of his home in Inglewood, Calif.

    According to news and police reports, Martin, 28, had his 8-year-old son Frederick “Tre” Martin III and a friend helping him. Around 7 p.m., two gunmen approached the garage and opened fire.

    We know, by Martin’s actions, the last thought that went through his mind: Protect the boy.

    Martin grabbed young Tre and shielded him from the gunfire. The father took bullets to the chest and abdomen. Tre received a minor graze wound and the friend – identified in some news stories as Tre’s godfather Joseph Hickman – was shot in the ankle, according to news reports.

    Later that evening, Frederick Martin Jr. died of his wounds at a local hospital. The men who shot him have neither been caught nor identified. Martin’s family has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Martin’s murderers.

    So, for the past month, Inglewood homicide detectives have had no leads or suspects in the case. This is why the Frederick Martin case is driving me much crazier than the Trayvon Martin case ever will.

    When Trayvon Martin was killed, everybody knew who did it. George Zimmerman admitted to the killing, although many weren’t buying his claim of self-defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

    We still have no idea who killed Frederick Martin Jr., or why. Police have no idea if Martin’s death was gang-related. They suspect it wasn’t because Martin wasn’t a gangbanger.

    According to news reports, Martin graduated from Inglewood’s Westchester High School in 1981. He earned a sociology degree from Texas Southern University and worked as a marketing representative for Kaiser Permanente before he was laid off shortly before his death.

    The most detailed account of Martin’s life might be reporter Sam Allen’s story in the April 8 edition of the Los Angeles Times.

    “Frederick Martin Jr. made no effort to conceal the pride he felt for his son,” Allen’s story began. “He bragged about the 8-year-old’s skills at karate and baseball, and showed family members copies of the boy’s completed homework.

    “‘I have a young child genius,’ Martin told his half-sister recently.”

    In other parts of Allen’s story, readers learn Martin’s goal of opening his own business, and his determination to steer clear of gangs. (According to Allen, Martin worked as an analyst, not a marketing rep, at Kaiser, and was still employed there at the time of his death.)

    “His family said the shooting was especially devastating because Martin had been vigilant about staying out of gangs,” Allen wrote. “He knew which colors not to wear, his sister said, and which streets to avoid.”

    According to Allen, Martin told his sister this about gangs and Inglewood:

    “It’s a reality of where we live. It’s always going to be around. You just have to be aware of your surroundings. You have to watch your back.”

    Some of Martin’s relatives and friends believe that the shooting might have been a gang retaliation gone bad. (Although I’d like for someone to give me an example of the gang retaliation shooting that has “gone good.”) It’s possible, they say, the shooters might have mistaken Martin for someone else.

    That doesn’t make Martin, who died a hero’s death, any less dead. It doesn’t give little Tre his daddy back.

    We should be screaming for justice for Frederick Martin Jr. just as loudly as we did for Trayvon Martin. Inglewood homicide detectives might not have a clue about who shot Frederick Martin Jr., but we can rest assured of this.

    Someone in Inglewood, Calif., sure has heck knows who did.

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