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The parents of an unarmed black Florida teenager killed a month ago by a neighbourhood watch guard vowed on Tuesday to fight for justice as they took their case to Capitol Hill.
The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin - who was fatally shot by a white Hispanic, George Zimmerman, who says he acted in self-defence - has unleashed a national uproar and re-opened old wounds over US race relations.
The teen's father, Tracy Martin, thanked “everyone who's been supportive of our family, everyone who's helped us stand tall, everyone who's holding the legacy and making sure that he did not indeed die in vain.”
“We'll continue to fight for justice,” Martin told lawmakers at a forum on racial profiling and hate crimes.
“I'd like to say thank you for your support. As I said before, Trayvon was our son, but Trayvon was your son,” said his mother, Sybrina Fulton.
The forum was organised by Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee.
Ranking committee member John Conyers offered his “heartfelt condolences” to the teen's parents and asked the packed room for a moment of silence.
“Trayvon was hunted down like a rabid dog, he was shot in the street. He was racially profiled,” Florida lawmaker Frederica Wilson told the packed meeting room.
After the hearing, Fulton said: “Of course my heart is broken, but it breaks even more to know that we have not had justice yet and that this man has not been arrested for shooting and killing my son.”
Zimmerman says he shot the teenager in self-defence on February 26 after an argument erupted in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.
The Orlando Sentinel on Monday said Zimmerman had told police Martin felled him with one punch and then climbed on top of the neighbourhood watch guard and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times.
Zimmerman has not publicly spoken about what happened, but several witnesses confirmed his account to the daily Sentinel.
On Tuesday, Sanford city manager Norton Bonaparte said the newspaper account was “consistent” with evidence collected in the case and handed to prosecutors, though he also said the leak would be investigated.
Martin's death has sparked an outrage, with rights groups saying it was further proof of the racial profiling of blacks in America.
“This case demonstrates profound racial inequality, not only juvenile - it also demonstrates the racial profiling in this country,” civil rights leader Jesse Jackson told AFP on Monday at a rally in Sanford attended by thousands.
US President Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president, stepped into the highly-charged debate last week, calling for “national soul-searching” over the tragedy.
“If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon,” Obama said Friday in an unusually personal take on the case.
Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump called on the US Justice Department to “watch over an investigation that we believe was flawed from the beginning,” and raising the spectre of a “conspiracy” to protect Zimmerman. - Sapa-AFP