Marley Lion and Trayvon Martin were both 17 years old when they were shot to death, both unarmed, and both doing nothing illegal.
The difference — Marley Lion is white, and some people claim that race is the reason Martin’s killing was national news but Lion’s is not.
Lion was killed in Charleston, South Carolina, at around 4 am on June 16, 2012. Police found him lying on the ground outside his Nissan Pathfinder, bleeding to death. Before dying he told police that two black males approached his car, one of them shooting him several times.
Charleston police would later arrest four people in connection with the shooting. The Charleston Police Department said they came across the suspects when one of them tried to sell the gun that had been used in Marley’s murder.
Though many have bemoaned the fact that Marley Lion’s murder has not garnered even a fraction of the attention that Trayvon Martin did, others point out that beneath the surface the cases are not at all alike. Martin was killed because George Zimmerman assumed that he was up to no good in the Sanford, Florida, gated community where Martin was staying.
Though Zimmerman and his family members have maintained that he is not racist, critics believe he assumed that young, black, hoodie-wearing Trayvon Martin was a criminal based on his appearance.
There were no such racial overtones in Marley Lion’s murder. Ryan Deleston, a 30-year-old black man charged Lion’s murder, was reportedly planning to rob a nearby bar when he came across Lion instead.
Lion’s murder also brought a swift investigation and charges, while Sanford police released Zimmerman the night of the shooting, deeming it was self-defense and no other investigation was needed.
On Tuesday, a leader of the Charleston branch of the NAACP made note of these distinctions.
“On the one hand, they were two young men who were minding their own business when it occurred. On the other hand, I think the problem in the Trayvon case is that the aftermath was different,” said Rev. Joseph Darby. “In the case of Marley Lion, there was an immediate search for the killer, fairly rapid apprehension, rapid action. With Trayvon Martin… the police were aware of the killing, but there was no charge until there was national pressure. I think the reason the Trayvon Martin case made national news was the level of inaction in Florida.”
Dot Scott, Charleston’s NAACP president, said the difference in police action highlights exactly why the Trayvon Martin case was so noteworthy. She said investigators “did what they should have done” after the murder of Marley Lion, but that “doesn’t happen the same way with the life of a black child.”