(CNSNews.com) – “My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” President Barack Obama told reporters on Friday, when he was asked about the high-profile Florida case in which an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain.
“And you know, I think they (Trayvon’s parents) are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
Obama said he had to be careful about his statements, because the case is under investigation by both the U.S. Justice Department, which is looking into possible civil rights violations, and the State of Florida, which has assembled a task force to examine the facts.
But, Obama added, “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.”
The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a gated community has prompted fury in Sanford, an Orlando suburb.
Civil rights activists, including Al Sharpton, have rallied to the cause, demanding the arrest of 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who told police he acted in self-defense.
"We cannot allow a precedent when a man can just kill one of us ... and then walk out with the murder weapon," said civil rights leader Al Sharpton, flanked by Martin's parents and a stage full of supporters at a rally in Sanford on Thursday night. "We don't want good enough. We want George Zimmerman in court with handcuffs behind his back."
Martin was returning from a trip to a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers the teenager looked suspicious. A dispatcher told Zimmerman – who is half white and half Peruvian – not to follow Trayvon.
On Thursday, the Sanford police chief stepped down under pressure. In a statement on Wednesday, Police Chief Bill Lee insisted his officers were "prohibited from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time," including physical evidence that supported Zimmerman's self-defense claim.
The local state’s attorney has recused himself from the case, after convening a grand jury on April 10 to decide if Zimmerman should be charged.
According to the Associated Press, at Thursday's protest in Sanford, some people carried signs reading, "100 years of lynching, justifiable homicide. Same thing." Others sold T-shirts that read: "Arrest Zimmerman."
“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 find out exactly how this tragedy happened,” Obama said.
“I think all of us have to do some soul-searching to find out how could something like this happen, and that means that we examine the laws, the context, for what happened as well as the specifics of the incident,” Obama said on Friday.
Florida is one of 21 states with a "Stand Your Ground Law," which allows people to use deadly force in defending themselves rather than retreat during a fight.
The question at the center of the Trayvon Martin case is whether the law even applies in this particular instance.
(The Associated Press contributed some of the information used in this report.)