It’s not clear how the three officers could have influenced Serino to change his assessment. And Serino’s reports reflected his own doubts about Zimmerman’s story, including his assessment that Zimmerman’s answers seemed “scripted.” Serino has refused to comment on any aspect of the case. He was reassigned at his request from the investigations division to patrol last month, and assigned to night duty.
The capias request was signed by Serino’s superiors, and it would have had the support of both the investigations chief, Sgt. Bob O’Connor, and then-Chief Lee. It came three days before the 911 calls related to the shooting were released to the public. Martin’s parents had been pushing for the release of the tapes, appealing to Sanford mayor Jeff Triplett for assistance.
Sources tell theGrio several black officers were questioned by Lee, but all denied leaking information to the media. Serino seems to have believed they were doing more than leaking. He listed Barnes, Perkins and Villalona as “all pressuring him to file charges against Zimmerman after the incident.”
“Serino did not believe he had enough evidence at the time to file charges,” the FBI report continues. “Serino also stated that Barnes is friendly with Tracy Martin,” Trayvon Martin’s father, and Serino reportedly told the agents that Barnes had asked him for Martin’s phone number, which he ultimately obtained from someone else.
Lawyers for Martin’s family tell theGrio Tracy Martin was acquainted with Barnes, but that he didn’t know he was a Sanford police officer, and didn’t speak to him about his son’s death until ten days after the incident.
And the report states that Serino believed that after he talked to Tracy Martin, the father understood why police had not charged Zimmerman. “Serino was not sure why or when Tracy Martin changed his views and Martin now believes the shooting was racially motivated,” the report concludes. Serino’s capias report alludes to a February 28th meeting with Martin’s father at the Sanford Police Department, from which Tracy Martin reportedly came away with an appreciation for the “complexity of the case” and was “reassured” by Serino that a thorough investigation would take place.
Serino investigated possible racial motive for shooting
The question of whether Zimmerman’s confronting Martin on the night of the shooting was racially motivated has become central to defense claims that Zimmerman is being unfairly characterized in the media and by supporters of Martin’s family. Serino appears to have investigated the possibility himself, but concluded that “just the act of following Martin was the instigation … and nothing else.” As for whether he believed Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, Serino told investigators he believed that Zimmerman’s actions “were not based on Martin’s skin color,” but “rather based on his attire, the total circumstances of the encounter and the previous burglary suspects in the community.”
According to the FBI report, local gangs in the area are “referred [to] in the community as ‘goons,’ typically dressed in black and wore hoodies.” The agents wrote in their report, which was part of a new round of evidence released by prosecutors Friday, that Serino believed that “when Zimmerman saw Martin in a hoody, Zimmerman took it upon himself to view Martin as acting suspicious [sic].” The homicide investigator described Zimmerman to the FBI investigators as “overzealous” and as “having a little hero complex,” but “not as racist.” The report states that Serino told the agents that he had asked Zimmerman on several occasions whether he followed the teen because of his skin color, and “Zimmerman never admitted to this fact.”
Serino conducted several interviews and phone conversations with Zimmerman starting on the night of the shooting. Zimmerman was viewed by the officers initially as more witness than suspect. He was left alone to write his statement at the Sanford Police Department on the night of the shooting, and went home with his wife after she brought him a change of clothes. Serino initially told several witnesses that it was Zimmerman who was crying for help on the night of the shooting, and one witness later told state attorneys investigators that her son, who was out walking his dog on the night of the shooting and witnessed part of the scuffle, felt pressured and “obligated” to say it was Zimmerman that he heard calling for help.
Serino told the FBI agents that he felt he knew Zimmerman “fairly well,” and that the 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer didn’t want to be a cop, “because cops have a bad reputation and are bullies, but he wants to be a judge.” He described Zimmerman as a “soft guy,” but added that his story about the shooting seemed “scripted,” as if he knew “the right things to say to the police” — including claiming self-defense, and telling officers he feared for his life in the confrontation with Martin.
Serino reportedly investigated whether Zimmerman had any white supremacist ties, but found that no one in that community knew who he was.
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