Bedford family reacts to Zimmerman verdict, mother worries about teen son

BEDFORD, Ohio - Tanya Hawthorne-Smith worries about her son, Walter, whenever he's away from their Bedford home.

He's 16, about the same age as Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was shot and killed while walking home from the store.

"I want my son to be an independent, strong, African-American male," she said. "I don't want to be over protective as a mom. I want him to feel that he can walk to the store, come home and be OK. He can get on the bus, and right now he's looking for a job, he could get on the bus and go put in a job application and know that he's going to come back home and he's going to be safe.  I worry all the time when we're not together. I worry all the time."

Both Hawthorne-Smith and her son were surprised that a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in Martin's death. They call the verdict unfair.

"If a kid is walking home from a store, there's no reason for you to follow him," Walter said. 

Walter Hawthorne wears hoodies to the store and he's never been followed home. But he knows what it's like to be profiled.

"I'll walk and try to look for some snacks that I want or something and the cashier will look at me or they'll have somebody come out and follow me around to see what I'm doing or see if I'm trying to steal anything and I don't think it's right."

Hawthorne-Smith has always taught Walter to carry himself in such a way that he won't be mistaken for someone looking for trouble.  He doesn't hang out on street corners with groups of guys.

'I make sure my pants are pulled up," he said. "I make sure I talk the way I'm supposed to talk."

His mother also told him what to do if he ever feels like he's being followed.

"Take off running and try to get somewhere safe," she said. "It could be nothing, but you don't know."

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