The central Florida city where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed has hired an Orlando PR firm to deal with the international scrutiny that has followed the incident.

Sanford, Fla., about 20 miles northeast of Orlando, is working with Massey Communications for crisis communications and media relations support.

Screen shot from a promotional video for Sanford.
“There has been a lot of media attention to the recent incident where George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin,” city manager Norton Bonaparte said in a letter to city residents posted to Sanford’s website [PDF], which includes an FAQ about the Martin shooting. “This is indeed a tragic situation and has caused a flood of questions and strong emotions from within our community, the region and nation.”

Massey’s PR unit is led by Susan Vernon-Devlin, a former public information officer for Seminole County – where Sanford sits – and the cities of Oviedo and Casselberry, Fla.

Vernon-Devlin told O'Dwyer's the initial terms of the firm's retainer are complete, but it is continuing to work with the city for the "foreseeable future" as "this is a fluid situation that will not be resolved any time soon."

She said the firm is handling crisis communications, which includes the organization of the joint information center to further media and PR.

"We established frequent lines of communication, press releases, press conferences, interviews with the media, discussions with citizens, things along those lines," she said. "In addition we are working with the city on a recovery plan."

Sanford on March 28 warned members of the media in a press release not to approach city employees outside of work hours under threat of arrest for stalking, citing reports where staffers were followed and approached at their homes and other locations. It later retracted the threat, regretting the "improvident wording" of the warning.

The Martin case has stoked outrage over and defenders of Florida’s gun safety laws, which give shooters wide latitude when they claim self defense. Zimmerman, the man who shot Martin, has not been charged by Sanford police.