While George Zimmerman’s defenders have focused on what they call accusations that he is a racist — accusations they say have come from civil rights leaders and African-Americans outraged by the shooting of Miami teenager Trayvon Martin, theGrio has learned that the initial claims that Zimmerman harbored bias against African-Americans came from a member of his family.
TheGrio has learned, from independent sources with spoke with her, that a woman identified by prosecutors as Witness 9, is a younger relative of Zimmerman’s, who contacted Sanford, Florida police shortly after the February 26th shooting. During the call, the woman made allegations that Zimmerman’s attorneys said could be highly prejudicial against their client, and could make it hard for Zimmerman to get a fair trial. Among them: that Zimmerman “hates black people” and that his family also harbors biased racial views.
Prosecutors previously released audio of the woman’s call to police, but on Friday, Judge Kenneth Lester ordered a second, more detailed statement to two state attorney’s investigators to be handed over to the media, along with 145 jailhouse calls between Zimmerman and family members while he was incarcerated in Seminole County’s jail. Those calls allegedly include Zimmerman “coaching” family members on how to hide money raised through his website, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.
“I don’t know what happened, but I know George”
Documentation and recordings previously released by prosecutors, who charged Zimmerman with second degree murder in April, show that the witness called Sanford police on February 28th — two days after the shooting, and well before the weeks of protests that erupted over the Martin’s death (Zimmerman was ultimately arrested on April 11th.) She wanted to talk to homicide investigator Chris Serino, who was investigating the shooting as a likely case of self defense. Serino, then-Police Chief Bill Lee, and the head of the city’s major crime unit had all agreed they lacked sufficient evidence to arrest Zimmerman, and he had been released on the night of the shooting. When the woman called the station, Serino wasn’t there, so she spoke with another officer, Trekelle Perkins.
“I don’t know what happened,” the woman said, referring to the shooting. Her voice sounded shaken and she seemed close to tears on the recording released by prosecutors last month. “I don’t know at all who this kid was, or anything else. But I know George. And I know that he does not like black people, and he would start something.”
“He’s a very confrontational person,” the woman said of Zimmerman. “It’s in his blood, let’s just say that. And I don’t … I don’t want this poor kid and their family to just be overlooked.”
The woman seemed very concerned that her identity would get out. When Perkins asked if she knew Zimmerman from the subdivision, presumably referring to the Retreat at Twin Lakes where Zimmerman and his wife Shellie lived, and where the fatal confrontation with the 17-year-old Martin took place, the woman reacted sharply. “Can this please not at all relate back to me?”
After receiving reassurance from the officer, the woman returned her focus to Zimmerman. “I don’t talk to him because of the the things that he says … the person he is … the things that he does,” she said, adding, “I know his mother, I know everybody and they’re all the same way, and I hate that. They’re just mean and [they're] open about it.”
The woman, who three sources who spoke with her tell theGrio is a younger relative of Zimmerman’s, said of the 28-year-old former neighborhood watch volunteer: “I don’t know what he’s capable of, but I do know things he’s done to me that I would never talk about to him every again.”
The officer offered to give the woman his phone number, and assured her that “we don’t have to do an investigation or anything like that.” He asked her to stay in contact with him, and said that if she was to hear anything she thought was relevant, she should let him know. He told her she wouldn’t have to give her name.
Witness 9 did eventually give authorities her name, and the witness list released by prosecutors last months lists two entries for statements given by Witness 9 on March 20th to two investigators from the Seminole County State Attorney’s office in Sanford, to investigators Jim Post and Jim Rick.
In those later interviews, the woman said she came forward because she was “afraid that he may have done something because the kid was black.” She alleged that when the two were growing up, Zimmerman’s family, and particularly his mother, “made statements that they don’t like black people.” She said that the family only “like black people if they act white. Other than that they talk a lot of bad things about black people.”