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WASHINGTON (AFP) – Race was a factor in the death of an unarmed black U.S. teen by a volunteer watchman recently acquitted in his killing, the victim’s father said Thursday.

Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot on the rainy night of February 26, 2012, as he walked through a quiet Florida community.

His shooter, self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, said he acted in self-defense. A jury acquitted him this past weekend.

The case, which sparked protests, is widely regarded as the most racially sensitive issue in the United States since President Barack Obama entered the White House.

“I think that, if Trayvon had been white, this wouldn’t have happened,” the teen’s father Tracy Martin said in an interview on NBC’s Today show. “So, obviously, race played some type of role.”

Critics of the verdict argue that Zimmerman racially profiled the youth — who had no criminal record — and was able to kill him with impunity because of a biased criminal justice system.

Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton speaking in the same interview, was critical of the U.S. legal system.

“I think it failed Trayvon to a certain degree,” she said.

His father, meanwhile, said he wanted the federal government to step in.

“We would like for the federal government to look into it and weigh all of the options,” he said.

“As parents, we just feel that there could have been something more done.”

Photo Credit: AFP/Robyn Beck

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