George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer in Florida, has been charged with killing an unarmed black teenager in a racially-charged case that has gripped America.
The 28-year-old is now in custody after turning himself in.
17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot dead as he visited his father on a residential estate in the central Florida town of Sanford.
His family, their lawyers and civil rights leaders have led a campaign calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. They claim the watchman believed Martin was suspicious because of his colour, and killed him in cold blood.
“We wanted nothing more, nothing less. We just wanted an arrest. And we got it. And, I say thank you. Thank you Lord, thank you Jesus,” said the teenager’s mother, Sybrina Fulton.
Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, has been charged with second-degree murder, the most serious crime possible without asserting premeditation.
The watchman allegedly challenged Martin, believing his presence to be suspicious. In the ensuing confrontation the teenager was shot dead.
Police said they initially found no proof to contradict Zimmerman’s claim that he was attacked and acted out of self-defence.
They now say the move to charge him is not the result of public pressure, despite a wave of civil rights demonstrations across the country demanding that the authorities take action.
Explaining the decision, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey said:
“This case is like a lot of the difficult cases we have handled for years in our circuit, and we made that decision in the same manner. Let me emphasis that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute based on the facts of any given case as well as the laws of the state of Florida.”
The case has provoked a national debate over guns, race and Florida’s controversial self-defence law known as “Stand Your Ground”.
President Obama commented that if he had a son, “he would look like Trayvon”.