With slight variations, George Zimmerman’s family members and his media adviser have told a story that paints Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who was shot by Zimmerman while walking home from a local 7-Eleven with candy and iced tea, as the aggressor in their fateful confrontation on February 26th.
The differences are subtle, but potentially important, particularly if a case against Mr. Zimmerman ever goes to trial.
Story 1: The confrontation at the SUV
Zimmerman called police from his vehicle on the night of February 26th, dialing a non-emergency number that presumably, he got by being a neighborhood watch captain (the number is not 911, but you can look it up online on the Sanford police department’s website.) Based on his call, he was following Martin in the car for a time, and then got out and followed him on foot. You can hear heavy breathing as Zimmerman continues to pursue Martin, though the dispatcher says “we don’t need you to do that.”
WATCH ‘THE LAST WORD’ COVERAGE OF ZIMMERMAN’S DEFENSE:
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In an April 3rd Reuters story, Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, recalls what he says the lead homicide detective in the case, Investigator Chris Serino, told him about the shooting (emphasis added):
“He told me Zimmerman’s story was that Zimmerman was of course following him and that Trayvon approached his vehicle, walked up to the car and asked Zimmerman, ‘Why are your following me?’ Zimmerman then rolls his car windows down, tells Trayvon ‘I’m not following you.’ He rolls his car windows up.
“Trayvon walks off. Zimmerman said he started running between the buildings. Zimmerman gets out of his car. He comes around the building. Trayvon is hiding behind the building, waiting on him. Trayvon approaches him and says, ‘What’s your problem, homes?’ Zimmerman says ‘I don’t have a problem.’
“Zimmerman starts to reach into his pocket to get his cellphone, and at that point Trayvon attacked him. He says Trayvon hits him. He falls on the ground. Trayvon jumps on top of him, takes his left hand and covers Zimmerman’s mouth and tells him to shut the F up and continues to pound on him.
“At that point Zimmerman is able to unholster his weapon and fire a shot, striking Trayvon in the chest. Trayvon falls on his back and says, ‘You got me.’”
Story 2: The confrontation on foot, and what Zimmerman reportedly told police
Zimmerman himself gave a slightly different account according to an Orlando Sentinel story dated March 26th, which appears to have been gleaned via leaks from Sanford police. In that account, there is no confrontation at the SUV, and the first words exchanged between Zimmerman and Martin take place at the point of their fatal confrontation, on a walkway between two rows of townhome back yards:
On Feb. 26, when Zimmerman first spotted Trayvon, he called police and reported a suspicious person, describing Trayvon as black, acting strangely and perhaps on drugs.
Zimmerman got out of his SUV to follow Trayvon on foot. When a dispatch employee asked Zimmerman if he was following the 17-year-old, Zimmerman said yes. The dispatcher told Zimmerman he did not need to do that.
There is about a one-minute gap during which police say they’re not sure what happened.
Zimmerman told them he lost sight of Trayvon and was walking back to his SUV when Trayvon approached him from the left rear, and they exchanged words.
Trayvon asked Zimmerman if he had a problem. Zimmerman said no and reached for his cell phone, he told police. Trayvon then said, “Well, you do now” or something similar and punched Zimmerman in the nose, according to the account he gave police.
Zimmerman fell to the ground and Trayvon got on top of him and began slamming his head into the sidewalk, he told police.
Zimmerman began yelling for help.
… Zimmerman then shot Trayvon once in the chest at very close range, according to authorities.
There is a dispute about who was yelling for help in the 911 call, but voice experts hired by the Orlando Sentinel have said the voice could not be Zimmerman’s.
Story 3: following Trayvon on foot, “between the town homes”
Trayvon’s supposed confrontation with Zimmerman is different in the retelling by Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman Sr., who told a Fox News Orlando affiliate that the confrontation between his son and Trayvon Martin took place entirely on foot, and who indicated that, although there are only two main roads into the complex, Zimmerman seemed unclear where he was:
Because there has been a lot of break-ins in the area, Robert said George thought it suspicious that someone would not be walking on the street or the sidewalk on a rainy night — that Martin would be walking between the town homes. He said after making those observations, his son decided to call the police.
“He called the non-emergency number first, and they asked him where he was, because he was at the rear of the town houses and there was no street sign,” said Robert.
Even though a dispatcher told George Zimmerman not to follow Martin, his father said his son continued his pursuit to locate an address to give to police.
“He lost sight of the individual, he continued to walk down the same sidewalk to the next street, so he could get an address for the police,” he said.
“He went to the next street, realized where he was and was walking to his vehicle. It’s my understanding, at that point, Trayvon Martin walked up to him and asked him, ‘Do you have a [expletive] problem?’ George said, ‘No, I don’t have a problem,’ and started to reach for his cell phone… at that point, he (Martin) was punching him in the nose, his nose was broken and he was knocked to the concrete.”
Robert said Trayvon, “continued to beat George, and at some point, George pulled his pistol and did what he did.”
This is also the version of events put forward by Joe Oliver, who recently stepped down as the Zimmerman team’s media adviser, and who initially claimed to be speaking out merely as a friend of George Zimmerman.
Story 4: Trayvon “tried to take Zimmerman’s gun”
Yet another version of the story comes from George Zimmerman’s brother, Robert Jr., who told CNN’s Piers Morgan this week that his brother was jumped from behind by Martin, and shot the teen in order to save himself from becoming a vegetable, due to his head being repeatedly bashed into the ground.
Robert Zimmerman Jr. claimed that George never followed Trayvon:#
“He did not follow nor did he ever catch up to Mr. Martin,” says Zimmerman. “If he were really being pursued, I don’t know how he wouldn’t have been able to make it home. What has come out that I can talk about today, is that Trayvon Martin somehow snuck up on him…Trayvon went up to George and said the first thing to George.”
…tried to call 911 a second time:
“My brother drew back, to grab his phone, in retreat, to call again 911, and say ‘Well now this person who I lost sight of and was not pursuing, has now confronted me.’ That’s what he did,” said Zimmerman Jr. “He never got to make that call, because he was attacked by Mr. Martin.”
In explaining his family’s perspective of the events from the night of February 26th, Zimmerman Jr. says that the idea his brother “pulled out a gun and shot him [Martin]” is not accurate:
“He stopped someone from disarming him and shooting him. He didn’t pull out a gun and shoot him. George showed tremendous restraint,” said Zimmerman Jr. of his brother. “You return force with force when somebody assaults you.”
…and was bashed to near unconsciousness:
“George was out of breath … his last thing he remembers doing was moving his head from the concrete to the grass, so that if he was banged one more time he wouldn’t be — you know, wearing diapers for the rest of his life and being spoon fed by his brother,” he said, “There would have been George dead had he not acted decisively and instantaneously in that moment.”
Despite this account, a surveillance video of Zimmerman being escorted into the Sanford Police Department shows no obvious injuries, except for what looks like a “bruise on Zimmerman’s head”:http://www.thegrio.com/specials/trayvon-martin/new-enhanced-zimmerman-video-suggests-injuries-video.php; and dispatch recordings have revealed that a second ambulance called to the scene for Mr. Zimmerman, was called off on the night of the shooting.
It is not known whether George Zimmerman, his father, brother or former media adviser have been interviewed by state attorney Angela Corey’s investigators, or by the FBI, which is reviewing the handling of the case by Sanford police.
Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport