Feds to investigate shooting death of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin
AP Photo/HO/Martin Family

(CBS/AP) SANFORD, Fla. - The federal government announced late Monday that it will launch an investigation into the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was killed last month by a neighborhood watchman.

Photos: Trayvon Martin

The announcement by the Justice Department followed a day of protests calling for the arrest of 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who claims he shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense during a confrontation in a gated community.

"The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation," the agency said in an emailed statement.

The federal agency said it is sending its community relations service this week to Sanford to meet with authorities, community officials and civil rights leaders "to address tension in the community."

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton is expected to join Sanford community leaders in a Tuesday evening town hall meeting to discuss with residents how the investigation is being handled.

Earlier Monday, students held rallies on the campus of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee and outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, where prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine if charges should be filed.

Yet authorities may be hamstrung by a state law that allows people to defend themselves with deadly force.

Prosecutors may not be able to charge Zimmerman because of changes to state law in 2005. Under the old law, people could use deadly force in self-defense only if they had tried to run away or otherwise avoid the danger.

Under the new law, there is no duty to retreat and it gives a Floridian the right "to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force," if he feels threatened.

"I don't think a man who exited his vehicle after the 911 dispatcher told him to stay inside the car can claim self-defense," Carl McPhail, a 28-year-old Barry University law school student, said at the Sanford rally.

Complete coverage of the Trayvon Martin case on Crimesider