Manatee County takes Zimmerman verdict in stride but some 'shocked' by it

rdymond@bradenton.comJuly 15, 2013 

PALMETTO -- Customers from all walks of life come to N Style barber shop on Seventh Street West in Palmetto.

"We have everything in here," said barber Johnnie Martinez.

Conversation in the barber shop usually runs the gamut, too. But Sunday it was all about the George Zimmerman "not guilty" verdict Saturday in the Sanford shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Martinez said.

Martinez was one of a handful of Manatee County residents who said Sunday they were shocked by the verdict because they felt strongly Zimmerman deserved some type of sentence for killing Martin. Martinez said it had nothing to do with race and everything to do with justice.

"I just think it's wrong," Martinez said as he cut Fernando Jimenez's hair. "I believe he should have gotten

some penalty."

At Saint Andrews AME Church, 203 17th St. W., the Rev. Kelvin LeVon Simms said much the same as Martinez.

"Initially, I was in shock when I heard the verdict," Simms said Sunday. "I thought he would be found guilty of something. I did not follow the trial extremely close, but close enough that it appeared there would be a conviction there."

After reading about the verdict, Simms said he began to pray for his own children, the 40 or so children in his congregation and all the children in the nation.

"I began to remember what it was like during the Rodney King times when there was so much unrest in Los Angeles and the nation was so divided," Simms said. "I just prayed that it wouldn't happen again."

Simms discussed the verdict with his congregation Sunday as did other Manatee County pastors.

"I asked the congregation on Sunday morning to not only pray for community unity, but also to remember that the Zimmerman family is indelibly changed, too," Simms said.

Simms said he had not heard of any protests planned post-verdict in Bradenton or Palmetto. He said he was ecstatic there was no violence in Manatee County after the verdict.

"We had a quiet night in Palmetto," Simms said. "And Sunday was very, very quiet. But the social media world was buzzing."

Simms said people were reacting, many angrily, on Facebook and Twitter.

The Rev. Edward Green Jr. of New Bethel AME Church in Winter Haven was Simms' guest pastor Sunday evening. Vocalist Roslin Smith joined Green for the trip.

"I was angry," Smith said of the verdict. "I believed he would get something. A life is gone. Everyone I talked with was angry."

"I was very disappointed," Green said. "But I wasn't surprised. I learned there have been six other incidents in Sanford regarding young black men."

The Rev. Lawrence Livingston of Eternity Temple First Born Church, 716 29th St. E., Palmetto, said the lack of violence in Manatee and Sarasota counties is a reassuring sign of maturity,

"I think our nation has matured," Livingston said. "We know where we are and what needs to be done and that violence is not the way to go about it."

Still, the verdict remains deeply disturbing to Livingston.

"Here was a young black man, having no weapon, who has lost his life," Livingston said. "It was disheartening to get a verdict of the innocence of this perpetrator because too many deaths have come our way,"

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.

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