US President Barack Obama offered a very personal take on the death of Trayvon Martin, saying that 35 years ago, he could have been the unarmed black teen shot dead by a neighborhood watchman.
In a surprise appearance before reporters, Obama hailed the "incredible grace and dignity" of Martin's parents and warned that a resort to violence in the wake of the Florida court verdict would "dishonor" his death.
He also called for a review of controversial "stand your ground" laws like the one in place in Florida, which assert that citizens can use lethal force -- rather than retreat -- if they sense their lives are at risk.
"When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son," Obama said, in his first substantive comments on a verdict that has aroused an impassioned debate on US race relations.
"Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.
While he refrained from direct comment on the jury's decision to acquit neighborhood watch volunteer GeorgeZimmerman on Saturday, Obama weighed in on the larger issues of race raised by the case.
"I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?" Obama asked.
"And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened?
"And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws," he said.