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President Barack Obama made a searingly personal plea on Friday for Americans to come together and do some "soul searching" after the shooting death of African-American Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman, noting: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
"My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we're get to the bottom of exactly what happened," Obama said in response to a shouted question in the White House Rose Garden.
Amid angry charges that race played a central role in the tragedy, Obama said "all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen—and that means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened as well as the specifics of the incident."
The U.S. Justice Department has announced that it's conducting its own investigation into whether Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is from Peru, is guilty of a hate crime by targeting Martin, an African-American, on the basis of his race.
"I'm the head of the executive branch, and the attorney general reports to me so I've got to be careful about my statements to make sure that we're not impairing any investigation that's taking place right now," the president said.
"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. And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened," the president said.
Obama's comments came just days after his chief spokesman, Jay Carney, had deflected questions about the incident, telling reporters "we're not going to wade into a local law-enforcement matter."
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