WASHINGTON — Urging Americans to "do some soul searching," President Barack Obama commented Friday on the fatal shooting of a teenager in Florida, turning the racially charged case into a personal matter for the nation's first black president.
"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said Friday.
"I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids," Obama said at the White House.
Obama directed his message to Martin's parents, saying, "I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans take this with the seriousness that it deserves, and we're going to get to the bottom of what happened."
The White House had said earlier in the week that it was "not going to wade into a local law enforcement matter" though offering sympathies for Martin's family. But that changed when Obama answered a shouted question after a Rose Garden ceremony to announce the president's choice to lead the World Bank.
Obama cautioned before speaking that he must "be careful so we're not impairing any investigation." But he said he was glad that the Justice Department was investigating and that Florida officials had formed the task force, which will examine Florida's "stand your ground law.'' On Thursday in Orlando, Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, met with U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill, who is based in Tampa.
Martin's parents thanked Obama for his support, saying in a statement the president's words "touched us deeply and made us wonder: If his son looked like Trayvon and wore a hoodie, would he be suspicious, too?"