President Barack Obama talks about the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon… (Andrew Harper / Pool Photo )
Reporting from Washington — At a White House summit, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder assured African American church leaders that he was conducting a thorough investigation of the shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.
But one of the leaders present said concerns remained about the killing and the local and federal investigations.
“This is a horrifically challenging, despicable situation and felt much more so for the laissez-faire attitude of the powers that be in that community,” said Bishop Donald Hilliard, speaking by phone during a break in the meeting. “After a while one gets tired of the same old script being played out again and again.”
Hilliard is the leader the Covenant Ecumenical Fellowship and Cathedral Assemblies, a church organization based in New Jersey.
Referring to recent hate-crime guilty pleas of three men in connection with a murder in Mississippi, Hilliard portrayed Martin’s case as another in a string of racially motivated killings.
Hilliard said he was unsure if the federal investigation into the shooting of Martin would be successful.
“Let’s just say I’m hopeful that justice will prevail,” he said. “I pray to God that this time justice will prevail.”
The White House meeting had been arranged as an opportunity for black faith leaders to learn more about government services directly from Cabinet secretaries. 140 people had been invited to the meeting, according to an official Twitter feed.
While the meeting was going on, President Obama spoke out about Martin’s killing for the first time in brief remarks in the White House Rose Garden.
“Obviously this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy I think about my own kids,” the president said. “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
Hilliard said the president’s race has probably sensitized him to the issue of profiling. “He probably has been -- as have I -- profiled; I’ve been pulled to the side,” he said.
Martin, 17, was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., as he walked to the home of his father’s girlfriend with a bag of candy and a bottle of iced tea. The community has a history of tension between the police and black residents.
Church leader: Like Trayvon Martin, Obama probably was 'profiled'