Trayvon Martin shooting timeline leaves many unanswered questions

When Tracy Martin and his fiancée, Brandi Greene, went out to dinner on the night of February 26th, they left Tracy’s son, Trayvon, and Brandi’s son, at home in Brandi’s townhouse in a neat subdivision in Sanford, Florida. They had spent time with their kids, who had bonded ahead of becoming step-brothers, and now wanted some adult time.

Trayvon was 17, and was in town from Miami where he and his father were both from. He lived in Miami Gardens, a growing South Florida suburb, with his mom, Sybrina Fulton.

The boys were watching the All Star game. At some point, Trayvon decided to walk to a nearby shopping plaza where there is a 7-11. He bought an iced tea, and for his soon-to-be younger step-brother, a box of Skittles candy. It was raining.

He never made it back to Brandi’s house.

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Trayvon may have cut through an opening in the wall that surrounds the gated community called The Retreat at Twin Lakes, where there are only bushes separating the back swale from the street. At shortly before 7:15, George Zimmerman, who volunteered for the development’s neighborhood watch, spots Trayvon standing outside the development’s clubhouse near the community mailboxes, where the teen had ducked under an awning to get out of the rain. Zimmerman calls police on a non-emergency number from his SUV, saying he sees a suspicious person.

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When Trayvon leaves the clubhouse, Zimmerman pursues him in his car.

Trayvon is talking on his cell phone to his 16-year-old girlfriend in Miami. She says Trayvon tells her someone is following him. He sounds nervous. She tells him to run.

Trayvon goes off the road to walk between two rows of town homes, down the lane from his destination, Zimmerman gets out of his car and pursues him on foot. He tells the dispatcher “oh shit, he’s running.” the dispatcher asks if he is pursuing the subject. When Zimmerman says he is, the dispatcher says, “we don’t need you to do that.”

They don’t get far. Just around the back lane, Trayvon is confronted by the stranger in a red jacket and jeans – he’s not dressed like a police officer.

Trayvon’s girlfriend is still on the phone. She says she hears someone confront Trayvon, and ask him what he was doing there. The phone drops.

At that time, the first 911 call is placed to police by an alarmed neighbor, who reports hearing a fight going on in their backyard. It was followed in rapid succession by five more calls to the emergency number. One caller says she hears someone screaming for help, and then gunshots.

A 7:17 p.m., the first officer, Officer Smith, arrives at the gated complex, responding to Zimmerman’s 911 call. In his report, he says that as he arrives, dispatchers notified him of the 911 calls reporting shots fired in the area.

Smith says that while canvassing the area, he came upon Zimmerman, bleeding from his nose and the back of his head, standing near Trayvon’s body. Zimmerman told the officer he had shot the person lying face down in the grass, and that he was still armed. The officer handcuffs Zimmerman, and removed a Kel Tek 9mm PF9 semi-automatic handgun from Zimmerman’s waistband.

Smith’s report says at some point, police determine that the man in the red jacket is the same person who called police.

According to Smith’s report, a second officer, Officer Ayala, arrives and tries to take vital signs from the young man lying on the grass. More officers arrive as Zimmerman was placed in the back of Smith’s patrol car and given first aid. A Sergeant Raimondo attempts to get a pulse on the young man, and when that fails, he and Ayala turn the teen over and attempted CPR and chest compressions.

Nothing works.

Zimmerman is taken into custody, and the young man is taken to the morgue, flagged as a John Doe.

Meanwhile, Tracy Martin and his girlfriend return to her house. Trayvon isn’t there, but they assume that he may have gone out with Tracy’s nephew, who’s in his 20s and close to Trayvon.

But when Trayvon still hasn’t arrived by the morning of the 27th, his dad gets worried. He repeatedly calls his phone. No answer. The father calls police to report his son missing.

Three cars arrive. Unbeknownst to Martin, one of the cars belongs to the Major Crimes Unit, and one holds a chaplain.

Outside the home, an officer asks Tracy Martin to describe his son, and what he was wearing the last time he saw him. When Martin does, the officer goes to his car, and retrieves a folder. He asks Martin to go inside with him and sit down.

Once inside, Martin says the officer showed him a picture of a young man lying dead on the ground, and asks if it is Trayvon.

Unanswered questions remain

The chain of events both before and after Trayvon’s death leave numerous unanswered questions.

Did police retrieve Trayvon’s cell phone at the scene of the shooting, and if so, why didn’t they didn’t use it to try to identify him by calling some of the numbers, one of which would have appeared as a call taking place at the same time as the incident? Why wouldn’t they scroll through the contacts, looking for “mom” or “dad”?

That phone hasn’t been seen since. The family says police never gave it to them. Trayvon’s father located his girlfriend by retrieving his son’s call logs online.

Why didn’t police retain Zimmerman’s grass stained clothes as evidence?

Did they perform a toxicology test on him, as they did on Trayvon, and if not, why not?

Did investigators run even a routine background check on Zimmerman before determining the shooting was justified? Once they decided he acted in self-defense, they had to release him. But why not conduct a thorough investigation of him before making that determination? Zimmerman’s past history, including a 2005 charge of assault on an officer is readily available online. Did police look for it?

Police said they initially held the 911 calls because of an ongoing investigation. But if they had already concluded that there was no case to be made against Zimmerman, why did it take so long to release the calls?

So far, police aren’t talking, other than the statements released by the city manager.