Published on Apr 13, 2012
The name of Trayvon Martin was invoked again Wednesday night in Gainesville during an attack by a group that police say stomped on a white man who was scuffling with a black robbery suspect on the Bo Diddley Community Plaza.
The robbery suspect, Carl Milton Babb, 50, had been released from prison earlier in the day after serving more than two years in prison for the same crime he is accused of committing Wednesday — snatching a purse from a woman near the downtown plaza.
According to a Gainesville Police Department arrest report, Babb approached a woman eating dinner at the Lunchbox on the plaza at about 8:50 p.m. and asked her for a light.
When she said she didn't have one, Babb took off with her purse, which contained her $500 cellphone, according to the report.
The woman's dinner companion and another person took off after Babb.
When her friend caught up with Babb, according to the police report, Babb punched him in the face and grabbed his hair, but he was able to keep Babb pinned down, according to the report.
The scene attracted a crowd, and a number of people on the plaza approached Babb and the Good Samaritan, who tried to explain that Babb had just stolen his friend's purse.
GPD spokeswoman Cpl. Angelina Valuri said some members of the crowd shouted "Trayvon!" and that at least three of members of the crowd began stomping on the hands of the woman's friend to force him to let go of Babb.
Babb, who was listed as homeless, was arrested by police a few blocks away.
Valuri said some witnesses to the robbery tried to calm down the crowd, affirming the victim's story that he was trying to stop a man accused of a crime and retrieve his friend's purse.
"The crowd was acting off of emotion without knowing all of the facts of this case," Valuri said, adding that investigators didn't immediately know the names or races of the men or women who stomped on the victim.
It was the second attack in the past week in Gainesville in which assailants yelled the first name of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black 17-year-old who was shot and killed by crime-watch volunteer George Zimmerman as the teen walked back to his father's girlfriend's apartment in Sanford on Feb. 26.
State Attorney Angela Corey had announced at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Jacksonville, less than three hours before the incident on Gainesville's downtown plaza, that Zimmerman had been charged with second-degree murder in Martin's death.
In Gainesville early Saturday, a 27-year-old white man was beaten by a group of between five and eight black men as he walked home on Southwest 23rd Terrace, police said.
The victim told police the attackers shouted "Trayvon!" before beating him, though he was intoxicated and could not give a description of the attackers or their vehicle.
Valuri said Thursday that investigators had no leads in the case and still were depending on members of the public to come forward with information.
"Emotions with (the Trayvon Martin) case, even though it didn't occur in our community, emotions are running high across the nation, including the city of Gainesville," Valuri said, referring to how the Martin case reared its head in Gainesville on Wednesday. "It's very unfortunate that, with this particular case, a person who was just trying to do the right thing ended up getting hurt."
According to the GPD report, Babb told Officer Jon Rappa he was "high on crack and doesn't remember what happened."
He also said he had been released from prison earlier in the day.