Looking back on 2012, it was quite the year for news stories that gripped the entire nation.
Here’s Metro’s pick for the top five stories that we’ll remember for years to come.
1. The shooting death of Trayvon Martin
On February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. after following him on suspicion of being a burglar. What unfolded in the months after became one of the most controversial stories of the year. Zimmerman claimed he shot Martin in self-defense after the teen, who was unarmed, started attacking him. Zimmerman’s critics said he was the aggressor and his suspicion of Martin, whose father lived in the neighborhood, was purely based on the fact that he was a young black man wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Zimmerman had called 911 to report Martin and failed to follow the operator’s instructions not to follow him.
Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder on On April 11, 2012. Following the charges, a series of photos taken the night of the incident surfaced showing Zimmerman with bloody injuries, lending some credibility to his self-defense claim. He is currently scheduled for trial on June 10, 2013.
2. The Miami ‘zombie’ attack
In a story that horrified the nation, Florida man Rudy Eugene encountered Miami drifter Ronald Poppo on May 26, and literally chewed off his face in a drug-fueled craze, police said.
Eugene met Poppo on the sidewalk near a highway before smashing his face into the concrete and plucking out his eyes and and biting and chewing his flesh. About 80 percent of Poppo’s face was destroyed, doctors said. Police shot and killed Eugene when he refused to step away from Poppo.
Poppo later said he didn’t know what provoked the attack and he had never met Eugene before. He has since undergone a series of reconstructive surgeries.
(Eugene, L, and Poppo, R)
3. The presidential election
President Barack Obama won his re-election campaign against Republican candidate Mitt Romney in a highly contentious race that came to an end on November 6, 2012. The candidates spent months campaigning and squared off in three debates, spurring several pop culture phenomenons, including the “binders full of women” meme, and jokes about Obama’s sleepy demeanor in the first debate.
Polls throughout the election season showed the candidates neck and neck with voters, but Obama and Vice President Joe Biden won in the end, with 332 electoral votes compared to 206 that went to Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan.
4. The ‘Dark Knight’ shooting
On July 20, 2012, a gunman entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. and opened fire on the crowd of people gathered for the midnight premiere of “Dark Knight Rises.” Twelve people were killed and 58 were wounded. Police quickly arrested 25-year-old James Holmes next to his car behind the theater, just minutes after the shooting. Police later encountered booby-trapped explosives at his apartment.
He had notably dyed his hair red in what was said to be a mimic of the “Joker” villain from the “Batman” movies. Police later revealed that Holmes had purchased several guns, including a semi-automatic rifle, just weeks before the shooting. Holmes is charged with 24 counts of first degree murder, 116 counts of attempted murder, possession of explosive devices, and inciting violence.
5. Sandy Hook massacre
Tragedy once again gripped the nation on December 14, 2012 when police said 20-year-old Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage inside Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. 27 people were killed, including Lanza who shot himself — 18 of them were children. Several of the teachers were killed during acts of heroism as they desperately tried to protect their students from the gunman. Lanza’s mother was a teacher at the school. She was found shot to death in the home she shared with her emotionally disturbed son after the shooting.
This shocking tragedy has thrust gun control laws under the microscope, as many lawmakers are calling for a ban on assault weapons, like the one Lanza used. President Obama assigned Vice President Joe Biden to produce recommendations on how to curtail gun violence in the country.