Shooting targets resembling Trayvon Martin sold online

ORLANDO, Florida Fri May 11, 2012 6:16pm EDT

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ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Shooting targets resembling Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot to death in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer, were offered for sale online before the ads were pulled by the auction site.

The sale at an online gun broker's auction site started on April 22 and offered 40 10-packs of paper targets, according to a screen shot of the auction ad by WKMG-TV in Orlando before the ad was taken down.

The targets featured a silhouette of a faceless person wearing a hooded sweatshirt, known as a hoodie, and holding a bag of Skittles candy and a container of tea. In an email exchange with WKMG, the seller claimed to be motivated by profit and to have sold out in two days.

Martin was wearing a hoodie and returning from a convenience store with Skittles and tea when he was shot on February 26 in Sanford, Florida. Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 28, is awaiting trial for second-degree murder in the racially charged case.

"Obviously, we support Zimmerman and believe he is innocent and that he shot a thug," the seller wrote on the site, according to WKMG-TV.

Jay Zwitter, a sales representative for the auction site, Gunbroker.com, told Reuters the target ad was removed as soon as it came to the company's attention, but he declined to say how long the ad was on the site.

He said the company, which hosts 600,000 ads daily, has the right to remove ads, but wouldn't discuss the reason behind the removal.

"This is the highest level of disgust and the lowest level of civility," attorney Mark O'Mara, who represents Zimmerman, said of the ads, according to WKMG.

A representative for Martin's family could not immediately be reached for comment.

Authorities initially declined to arrest Zimmerman for the death of 17-year-old Martin, citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows people to use deadly force when they believe they are in danger of getting killed or suffering great bodily harm.

That decision prompted nationwide protests and accusations of racial bias. Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, was later charged by a special prosecutor appointed by the state's governor.

Hilary Shelton, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Washington bureau, criticized the targets.

"It's outrageous that someone would try and exploit such a horrific situation as an unarmed teen being gunned down, and profit off something so vile and disgusting as a gun target silhouette," Shelton said.

The seller, identified on the auction site as "Hillerarmco," could not be reached for comment. The Hillerarmco.com website, registered on April 20, was no longer available, and the seller's address was not functioning. An email from Reuters to the auction site went unanswered.

According to Tucows Domains database of website owners, the Hillerarmco.com website belonged to Hiller Armament Company in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The registrant and administrative contact names were listed as anonymous.

(Additional reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Jane Sutton, Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)

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