Saturday marks 10 years since Trayvon Martin’s death in Sanford

Shooting sparked national conversation about unarmed Black men being shot

SANFORD, Fla. – In the heart of historically Black Sanford sits the Goldsboro Welcome Center.

In February, the center displays Trayvon Martin artwork, banners and memorabilia.

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That’s because February is not only Black History Month, but also the month the 17-year-old was born—and the month he was killed.

Francis Oliver is the founder and owner of the Goldsboro Welcome Center and the Goldsboro Museum. She is also a Sanford historian.

“Trayvon’s death and Trayvon’s name and the injustice with Trayvon caused a lot of people to be more alert,” Oliver told News 6.

In February of 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford by George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer who was 28 at the time.

Zimmerman claimed self-defense and was not immediately arrested.

It sparked outrage from the community and grew into an international movement.

Weeks after the shooting, Reverend Al Sharpton organized a rally calling for the Sanford Police Department to arrest Zimmerman.

Thousands packed Sanford’s Fort Mellon Park.

Around the same time, Sanford’s Police Chief, Bill Lee, was fired.

So what has changed since then?

“I think the one that I recognize most is a change in the police department,” Oliver said. “They are friendly and willing to help. We don’t see them with people on the ground and all this kind of stuff.”

Chief Cecile Smith, the current chief, says it’s not an accident.

“What’s been important for us is to make sure that our guys are out and about, even myself, out and about trying to do things in the community,” Smith told News 6.

Smith started in Sanford about a year after Trayvon Martin’s death.

“His death was not law enforcement related,” Smith said. “But it gave us all an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, how can we be better as a community? How can we be better in law enforcement as well?’”

Smith immediately started rebuilding the department and the trust within the community, by making officers visible and accessible.

He does a monthly meeting in Goldsboro with Commissioner Kerry Wiggins.

He also created a website, broken down into community service areas, where residents can click their neighborhood and see the officers who patrol their area.

There is also a link for them to email them directly.

“It’s about us. You know, getting back to the old ways of police officers and community people knowing who each other are,” Smith said.

The community has noticed.

“There have been some changes for the better, especially in the police department,” Oliver said.

For his officer’s, its less about policing and more about the department being a resource for the community, according to Smith.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.