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Obama on Trayvon Martin death: a time of 'soul-searching' for 'all of us' (+video)

President Obama on Friday addressed for the first time the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, saying, 'If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.' Some decry an 'official national tragedy.'

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As protests continued Friday over the shooting death last month of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, President Obama brought the matter to the top of the national agenda with a simple declaration: “If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.”

The president's off-the-cuff comment, in answer to a reporter's question at a Rose Garden press conference Friday morning, is his first in public about the Trayvon Martin case, and it may well have captured the emotional reaction of parents far and wide to the teen's death. It is important, Mr. Obama said, "to figure out how this happened."

The case is steeped in many issues that have long been flash points in American society: race, gun rights, and fear of crime. 

“It's an official national tragedy at this point, and it's good for all of us to, hopefully, be able to have these important discussions about race and criminal justice in the 21st century,” says Donald Tibbs, a law professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Trayvon was fatally shot Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman, armed with a 9 mm pistol, pursued someone he described to police as a suspicious “black male” wearing a hoodie. What happened isn't exactly known, but there was some kind of altercation, and Trayvon was shot and killed. The teen was unarmed and was returning to his dad's fianceé's house after a trip to a local convenience store, where he'd purchased a bag of Skittles and an iced tea.

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