SANFORD, Fla. April 10, 2012 -- Six shots were fired into an empty police cruiser early today in the Florida neighborhood where black teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed as the mayor warned that the town has become a "kindling box."
No one was injured in the 4:30 a.m. shooting at the Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Fla. Police removed the vehicle and have begun an investigation.
The shooting occurred as tensions continue in this small middle class city. One official told ABC News tension could soon reaching a boiling point. ABC News has learned that the emergency operation centers of three counties have been activated at Level II, the same level of preparedness used ahead of a hurricane.
"Are we a kindling box? Sure," said Mayor Jeff Triplett. "But we're working down a path and so far it's been absolutely peaceful."
He said noting the city hopes to avoid conflict violence, even allowing protesters to blockade the police department Monday and shutting it down.
"You plan for the worst and hope for the best," Triplett said.
Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was shot by George Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch captain on Feb. 26.
The shooting has spawned outrage in the black community with protests and demands that Zimmerman be arrested for murder.
But Zimmerman claims that the shooting had nothing to do with race, that he shot Martin in self defense after the teenager knocked him down, slammed his head into the ground and went for Zimmerman's gun.
Mayor Calls Sanford, Florida, a 'Tinderbox'
In the weeks after the shooting, outraged supporters of the Martin family held rallies and protests demanding that Zimmerman be arrested. Electronic roadside signs had been used throughout Central Florida to alert people to the rallies.
And the New Black Panther Party offered a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman.
A backlash has been growing, though, with distinct racist undertones.
In Detroit, far from the Florida town where Martin was shot and killed, drivers were shocked on Sunday to see an electronic highway sign with the word "Trayvon" followed by a racial slur. The offensive message was quickly erased.
At Ohio State University last week the words "Long Live Zimmerman" were scrawled across the side of the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center, a part of the university's Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
"It's a hate crime," Larry Williamson Jr., director of the Hale center, told ABC News. "Some people see it as just graffiti but if you see something done in such a negative way, you're going to have a community that feels hate."
In Sanford, where the shooting took place, the specter of racism is ubiquitous.
A group of armed neo-Nazis from the National Socialist Movement have descended upon the town, touting their intention to patrol the town to protect whites against a race riot.
"We are not the type of white people who are going to be walked all over," Commander Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement told The Miami NewTimes.
The Rev. Terry Jones, the controversial pastor who once threatened to burn copies of the Koran, announced last week his plan to hold a rally on April 21 at the Seminole County Courthouse in support of Zimmerman and his constitutional rights.
And reporters covering the emotionally charged story have been inundated with angry tweets and social media messages, with some of the messages verging on threats.
Capt. Robert O'Connor of the Sanford Police Department told ABC News, "Law enforcement agencies in the area are monitoring a variety of activities and groups to ensure that conditions remain peaceful."
Mark Potok, fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center and Editor of the Intelligence Report says that he's not surprised by the emergence of hate groups and that the Martin situation has merely shone a light on existing racial tensions.
"There are eruptions of race whenever there are high profile cases in which white people are accused of real racist violence towards black people. It really isn't surprising. The context is that we're living through a time in which there are very real racial tensions in this society," Potok said.
"What we're seeing now are the opportunists from all sides. It's a bunch of vile, outside groups and I'm speaking of both the Black Panther party and National Socialist Group," he said.
Potok believes that the Martin case has irrevocably shaped the discussion on race in America, relating this case to the recent shooting in Tulsa, Okla., in which four black men and a woman were shot by two white men. Three of the shooting victims died.
"Inevitably it seems that the Tulsa shooting will be discussed in the same breath. Seems very different, but the Tulsa shootings will become a part of the Trayvon conversation because it's more evidence of very serious racial divides in this country," Potok said.