A cardboard photo-realistic figure of Trayvon Martin is carried through a crowd gathered to protest the Trayvon Martin case in Union Square in New York City on July 14, 2013. (Shutterstock)

Although Attorney General Eric Holder sounded a conciliatory note in making the announcement, it was his disheartening task on Tuesday to go public with the news that the Justice Department was closing the book on the highly charged Trayvon Martin case without charging gunman George Zimmerman.

Thus concludes the DOJ’s nearly three-year civil rights investigation into the shooting of unarmed African American teenager Martin, who was 17 when he was shot and killed by then-security guard Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, sparking a series of protests about race-based violence in the U.S.

The outgoing attorney general, who was resolved to see Martin’s case through before leaving his position, explained his department’s decision that day, just two days shy of the third anniversary of the shooting (via The New York Times):

On Tuesday, officials from the Justice Department and the F.B.I. met with Mr. Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, in Miami to inform them about the decision not to bring federal charges.

“The death of Trayvon Martin was a devastating tragedy,” Mr. Holder said Tuesday in a statement. “It shook an entire community, drew the attention of millions across the nation, and sparked a painful but necessary dialogue throughout the country.

“Though a comprehensive investigation found that the high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution cannot be met under the circumstances here, this young man’s premature death necessitates that we continue the dialogue and be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface. We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”

Mr. Martin’s parents were badly shaken by the news, said the family’s lawyer, Benjamin L. Crump. The family had a one-hour conversation with Justice Department officials on Tuesday.

“This is very painful for them; they are heartbroken,” Mr. Crump said. “But they have renewed energy to say that we are going to fight harder to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anybody else’s child.” Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton have become national figures and, through their foundation, are trying to help reduce violence in black and Hispanic communities and improve education.

The Justice Department made the call after interviewing some 75 witnesses and did take Zimmerman’s run-ins with the law after the Martin shooting into account, the Times also noted.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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