A trove of new evidence released in the prosecution of George Zimmerman, who is charged with second degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, offers fresh details on the case.
The documents, including police reports, surveillance video from the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhome complex, where the shooting took place, and from the 7-11 where Martin purchased Skittles candy and iced tea before walking back to the house where his father’s girlfriend lived on the night of February 26th, along with witness statements, the medical examiner’s reports and more, shed new light on what prosecutors considered before charging Zimmerman last month.
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Among the new information:
- Zimmerman was not a neighborhood watch captain as previously believed. Wendy Dorival, the Sanford Police Department’s volunteer liaison, told authorities Zimmerman was the “coordinator” for the Retreat at Twin Lakes, meaning he was the main point of contact between the police department and the complex’s homeowners association. Zimmerman was known to at least some police officers, including one who responded to the scene and identified him as the “head of the neighborhood watch.” Last year, shortly before the first neighborhood watch meeting on September 22nd, Zimmerman wrote a glowing email about Dorival to Chief Bill Lee (now on paid leave,) praising Dorival’s responsiveness. Dorival told investigators Zimmerman had been “upset” by the handling of a case under the previous chief, in which a police lieutenant’s son beat a homeless man and was not arrested. TheGrio.com contacted a spokesman for Lee to ask whether Lee recalled the email, or Zimmerman, and is awaiting comment.
- At least one witness also knew who Zimmerman was. The woman, identified as Witness 11 in the discovery documents, told investigators she was a member of the homeowners association board, and knew that Zimmerman was the coordinator, and said he was the only member of the neighborhood watch she knew.
- The effort to revive Trayvon Martin involved multiple officers and paramedics. One officer, Ayala, after seeing Martin’s chest wound asked a bystander to bring plastic wrap and Vaseline, which he used to try and seal chest wound. The officer found no exit wound on Trayvon’s back. At least three officers attempted CPR on Martin, but after paramedics hooked him up to a heart monitor and found him “flat lined,” he was declared dead at the scene.
- Zimmerman repeatedly refused transport to hospital, and according to an officer Mead, “showed no sign of needing immediate medical attention.” This despite the fact that police reports and photos released by the state attorney’s office show Zimmerman with blood under his nose, and on the back of his head. Zimmerman’s wounds were treated at the scene.
- Trace amounts of THC were found in Trayvon Martin’s system, indicating marijuana use. Martin had been suspended from his high school in Miami after a bag with traces of marijuana was found in his backpack.
- Police found Martin’s cell phone at the scene, but reported that nothing could be downloaded from it because it had gotten wet in the rain and the battery was drained. On March 2nd, police contacted T-Mobile, and were told that if they could get the phone’s PIN, they could bypass the swipe code and access the data on the phone. Police contacted Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, on March 5th, to ask for the PIN, and he told them he would contact his lawyer before releasing that information.
- Zimmerman’s wife was advised by police to bring him a change of clothes because his were going to be seized at the police station. Photos from inside the Sanford police station show Zimmerman, still in the red jacket described by witnesses. Cuts and abrasions are visible on his head and neck.
- At least one officer, patrolman Michael Wagner, took pictures of both Zimmerman’s face and Trayvon’s at the scene.
- Two flashlights were found at the scene; one small one attached to a Honda key chain, and a second flashlight whose owner was not identified in a police report.
- Several witnesses told police they saw the man in red — Zimmerman — on the ground, and believed he was the one yelling for help. At least two witnesses; the husband of a woman identified as Witness 12, and a man, Witness 13, talked to Zimmerman after the shooting. Witness 13, a man who lived near the shooting scene, told the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and state attorney’s investigators he went outside with a flashlight after hearing the commotion outside his townhouse, saw Zimmerman standing on the sidewalk and spoke to him. The witness said Zimmerman asked him if he was bleeding. And when he responded, “yeah, you’ve got blood all over you,” the witness said Zimmerman asked him to call his wife and “tell her I just shot somebody.”
The witness said Zimmerman “looked like he just got his butt whooped,” but that he didn’t sound alarmed, “not like, I can’t believe I just shot somebody.” Rather, the witness said Zimmerman sounded “kind of like it was nothing,” and that he was impatient for the witness to call his wife, “like get to the point.” Witness 13 said he saw two flashlights on the ground, as well as Martin’s body face down on the grass, and he said he took three cell phone pictures of Zimmerman, which he later deleted on his phone but saved on his laptop. One of them was of the back of Zimmerman’s head.
Witness 13’s statement on the night of the shooting, to homicide investigator Chris Serino, varied slightly, in that he told Serino Zimmerman told him, “yo, that guy was beating me up so I had to shoot him.” And when the witness asked Zimmerman if he should call 911, he said Zimmerman responded that there was no need to, since he was just on the phone with them. The witness said he had never seen or met Zimmerman before that night.
- Other witnesses, however, perceived Zimmerman as the assailant. Two women, identified collectively as Witness 16, told homicide investigator Chris Serino they were making coffee in their kitchen when they heard “somebody crying, like a young boy.” The women, who appear to be roommates, said one of them — a woman with a heavy accent — walked out onto the porch and saw two people; one lying face down on the ground and another standing over him, with one leg on either side of his body, “pressing on his back.” The woman said she yelled three times to the man who was standing, and he didn’t respond, then finally told her to call 911. The women insisted that “there was no fighting going on at the time the gun went off” and that the fight started “way down the sidewalk, because the person at the very end of this block is the one that called police originally, because the fight broke out. …The kid got shot way down here… five doors down.” The women said the “kid” was “real skinny compared to” Zimmerman, and they expressed fear that Zimmerman, who they did not know, had “seen their faces.”
- Martin’s female friend, who said she had been on the phone with him “all day” on Sunday, February 26th, told prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda that Trayvon was on the phone with her as he walked home in the rain that evening, when he alerted her that there was a man in a car watching him. She said he described the man as “creepy” and “looking crazy.” The young woman, identified as Witness 8, said Trayvon had stopped at the clubhouse, near the community mailboxes, to get out of the rain, but that when the man continued watching him, while talking on the phone in his car, Trayvon decided to run around the back of the houses.
Witness 8 said Martin ran, and that she could hear that he was out of breath when he said he thought he had lost the man, but that soon, he told her the man was behind him again. Witness 8 said she repeatedly told Trayvon to run, but that he sounded “out of breath” and said “he ain’t running.” She said at one point, Trayvon told her the man was right behind him, and she could hear Trayvon ask, “what you following me for,” to which she heard the man respond, “what you doing around here?” After that, she said she could hear scuffling, and then the sound of grass, and she lost the connection with Trayvon. She tried calling and texting him back, but got no response. At the end of the interview, the young woman quietly said to De la Rionda, “I got guilt … I feel real guilty.” When he asked her why, she said because she didn’t know what was happening to her friend, who she said was “funny” and a “mama’s boy,” that night.
- A previously unheard witness, identified as Witness 9, called Sanford police some time after the shooting, wanting to give information but seemingly fearful of having her identity known. In a phone call between the woman and an Investigator Perkins, the woman says “I don’t know who this kid was … but I know George. And I know that he does not like black people.” The woman said Zimmerman “would start something. He’s a very confrontational person. It’s in his blood, let’s just say that, and I don’t want this poor kid and his family to be overlooked.” Asked if she knows Zimmerman personally, or from the subdivision “you guys live in,” the woman becomes emotional, saying “please, please do not at all relate [this] back to me. I don’t talk to him because of the things he says, and the person he is.” She said she knows Zimmerman’s mother, “and everybody, and they’re the same way. They’re just mean and open about it.” The woman continues, I don’t know what he is capable of, but I do know the things he’s done to me that I would never talk to him about ever again. The woman tells Investigator Perkins that police should “get reports from other people who have heard Zimmerman say racist things,” saying “hopefully they’ll talk about it and not be afraid of him.”
- Police filed a “capias” request to the Seminole County State Attorney on March 13th, advising that Zimmerman be charged with “homicide/negligent manslaughter” and that a warrant be issued for his arrest. The report, based on the investigation by officer Chris Serino, and signed by Sergeant Randy Smith, stated that ”[Trayvon] Martin was running generally in the direction where he was staying as a guest of the neighborhood,” and that there was “no indication that [he] was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter.”
- Police made that capias request, despite finding that the person who can be heard “frantically yelling for help” on the night of the encounter was George Zimmerman. But police apparently dismissed that, because in their words, “the encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement, or conversely if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialog in an effort to dispel each party’s concern.”
- According to the capias request, the police investigation revealed that on August 3 and 4, and October 6, 2011 and February 2, 2012 Zimmerman “reported suspicious persons,” all of whom were young black males. Per the capias: “according to records checks, all of Zimmerman’s suspicious person calls while residing in the neighborhood have identified black males as the subjects.
- The capias request concludes: “based on the facts and circumstances outlined in this narrative, I believe there exists probable cause for issuance of a capias charging George Zimmerman with manslaughter.” Ultimately, the Seminole County state attorney recused himself from the case, citing an unnamed potential appearance of conflict of interest, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott assigned Duval State Attorney Angela Corey to the investigation. Zimmerman was arrested and charged on April 11th.
- In his interview with state attorneys, Zimmerman’s father Robert states, without being asked a question about it, that “if young Asian males had been breaking into houses, George would have been reporting suspicious Asians that he didn’t know, walking through the community.”
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