A Florida police officer fired for bringing targets resembling Trayvon Martin to a gun range apologized to the shooting victim's family "for being used as a pawn in somebody's political agenda" but said the targets are a valuable training tool.
Police Sgt. Ron King denied claims by Port Canaveral Interim Chief Executive Officer John Walsh that King was leading target practice with two other officers and a civilian earlier this month when he pulled out the targets and asked the group if they wanted to shoot at them.
The Port Canaveral Police Department fired King on Friday following an internal investigation, according to port officials.
King, a firearms instructor, denied in a video posted on YouTube that he suggested anyone shoot at the target, which features a faceless silhouette of a person in a hoodie holding a beverage can, a pack of Skittles candy tucked in a pocket. A bull's eye appears on its chest.
Trayvon Martin, 17, was wearing a hoodie and carrying Skittles and a can of iced tea on Feb. 26, 2012, when he was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, then 28, in a gated Sanford, Fla., community.
King, in his video, referred to the target as "no-shoot training aid" and said it should be used only as an example of a situation where an officer should not fire his gun.
"Using real-life situations as a training scenario is not uncommon," King said.
King apologized to Trayvon's family and to any law enforcement professionals who may have been embarrassed by the publicity swirling around the incident. He accused an unnamed officer of inventing details of the incident to damage the credibility of the police department's leadership.
"I remain a professional law enforcement officer and a professional firearms instructor," said King, who can appeal his dismissal. "I refuse to sit by while others use the Martin family and myself as a way to further their own political and career agendas."
Walsh was unmoved. "I found the entire situation unacceptable," he said. "It is not the type of behavior that I want a police officer to have on both a personal and professional level."
Walsh also apologized to Trayvon's family, which has argued that the black teen was targeted and murdered. Zimmerman says he shot Trayvon in self-defense after being attacked. Zimmerman, who faces a second-degree murder charge, is set to go on trial June 10.
The shooting sparked protests and national conversations on race, gun laws, and the meaning of self-defense.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin's parents, was highly critical of King.
"It is absolutely reprehensible that a high-ranking member of the Port Canaveral Police, sworn to protect and serve Floridians, would use the image of a dead child as target practice," Crump said. "Such a deliberate and depraved indifference to this grieving family is unacceptable. The citizens of Port Canaveral deserve better."
Contributing: Scott Gunnerson, Florida Today