Update: 3:17 pm Pacific
In this ABC News Video, at about 2:40 the reporter states that Trayvon Martin made a 9-1-1 call just before his death and the call captures Zimmerman’s voice in the background. This allegation has not been corroborated by any other media. [Tip to Educator @Anti_Intellect]

Trayvon Martin

Travyon Martin, Via Facebook

When I read Newt Gingrich’s comments about Trayvon Martin this morning, I was incensed. And not just because of what he said. I was angry because suddenly (yes, suddenly) the nation’s political opportunists (yes, Mr. President, I mean you, too) have decided that they need to go on the record about this tragedy.

I’ve been following this story, silently, for quite a while because of the racism it seems to represent, because I’m Southern and because of the “Easy Rider” approach to fear/vengeance/law and order that it reflects. For those of you not around then, Easy Rider (released in 1969) depicted southern small-mindedness. The protagonists (white “hippie” motorcyclists) are murdered by a (white) hillbilly while en route to Florida. Here, a black teen was shot and killed by a white (“Spanish-speaking minority“) man.

I’ve also followed this story because of what it says about Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which extended the right to self-defense from being in your home to anyplace you have a legal right to be. According to a news investigation, the number of “justificable” homicides in Florida has tripled since the law’s passage in 2005.

Think about this for a moment. A guy who has 100 pounds on you steps out of his SUV, maybe brandishing a gun, maybe not, and demands to know why you are in his neighborhood. What are you, unarmed, going to do? Attack him? Doubtful. But if he gets in your face and pushes you on the shoulder, would you push back? I think I would. So now there’s a fight – one that I did not start – but the mere fact that there is a fight is enough to exonerate the guy who shoots me?

Update 2, 3:59 pm Pacific:
On a tape of one of Zimmerman’s 911 calls the night of the shooting, he is heard saying under his breath what sounds like “f**ing coons.” Seconds later he confronted Martin and after a brief scuffle shot him dead. (Audio – listen closely, it’s there.)

Finally, I’ve followed this story because before the advent of the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, independent blogs and online petitions … this story would have been unlikely to reach a national audience. The odds that there would have been a federal grand jury? Slim. In many ways, it reminds me of Genarlow Wilson, “an honors student jailed for 10 years because of a poorly written Georgia law, a zealous prosecutor, and an impotent governmental system.”

Why does it seem that a national platform is needed to in order to render local justice?

Update 4a: 12:25 am Sunday
In the LA Times columnist Sandy Banks quotes her daughter: “It’s not about race anymore,” she told me when I asked why so many people seem to have made Trayvon a martyr. “This is about justice. A crazy man who shot a kid who wasn’t bothering anyone.”

Not only are our politicians now getting into the act, so are the national media pundits and a roster of celebrities from music and film. Perhaps Trayvon will serve as America’s 21st Century Nada [1], personifying the perilous life of teen black men in America and illustrating the rise in hate groups and hate crime.

Even though I cannot understand why no arrest was made, based on the evidence presented in the press, I realize that in a criminal investigation that not all evidence is disclosed to the media.

I’m concerned, however, that the case will never go to trial due to an inability to find a neutral jury, due to Florida’s gun-friendly get-out-of-jail-free law dubbed the “Stand Your Ground” law or due to witnesses giving their statements not to the police but to reporters.

I am also concerned about Internet vigilante justice: more than 1.7 million people have signed an online petition urging that the Zimmerman be prosecuted. His family, and the police chief, have received death threats.

I encourage you to read on, although this is a very long, two-part article. I hope to correct some errors from early reporting and, perhaps, dispel some myths along the way. The cited news reports are in no way intended to be complete.

The Unnoted Back Story

George Zimmerman (28, age first reported as 26) gunned down Trayvon Martin (17) the evening of Sunday, February 26, 2012 in a gated neighborhood (The Retreat at Twin Lakes) located in Sanford, FL, a suburb of Orlando.

Sanford (population 53,000) is the county seat of Seminole County (population 422,000); the Orlando SMA has a population of 2.1 million. According to the U.S. Census, Sanford is 57.3% Caucasian/Hispanic and 45.0% non-Caucasian/Hispanic. It is 30.5% Black, 20.2% Latino/Hispanic. In other words, dark-skinned youth are not a rarity.

Moreover, this neighborhood probably doesn’t match the picture in your mind when you hear or read “gated community.” It’s comprised of modest (less than 1,500 square feet) two-story townhomes with one-car garages with current selling prices of around $100,000. Oh. And like Sanford itself, it’s a mixed-race community.

What do we know about this case?

  1. Martin was walking back to his father’s home from a neighborhood convenience store, where he had purchased Skittles and a can of iced tea. He made the trip in a drizzle before an NBA All-Star game was set to start in Orlando.
  2. Zimmerman made a “non-emergency” 9-1-1- call (audio) and reported a suspicious person in the neighborhood. He was explicitly told (per the 9-1-1 transcript and Police Chief Bill Lee) not to follow Martin. He had attended a community neighborhood watch program in September that contained “a slide about not being vigilante police.” Transcript of the 9-1-1 call provided by Mother Jones.
  3. Martin, talking on his cellphone as he returned home, told his 16-year-old girlfriend that a man had been watching him. The phone logs show that the call occurred five minutes before the police arrived on the scene.
  4. Zimmerman disobeyed the directive from the police dispatcher not to follow Martin. Zimmerman confronted shot Martin with a 9mm handgun (he had a license to carry) and later claimed that he shot the unarmed teen in self-defense.
  5. The police found “Martin’s body lying face down on the grass about 70 yards from the family’s home.” [How do you fall face forward when shot in the chest?]
  6. The Sanford Police Department did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol, although this is standard procedure in a homicide.
  7. Zimmerman is a college student reportedly studying criminal justice who wants to be a police officer. He regularly calls 9-1-1 (46 times since January 1, 2011); this audio (via WKMG Orlando) illustrates his pattern of 9-1-1 calls.
  8. The Sanford Police Department accepted Zimmerman’s story that he had no arrest record. However, in 2005 (he would have been 18 or 19 21) “Zimmerman was charged with battery against an officer and resisting arrest.” He assaulted “a law-enforcement officer and resist[ed] arrest with violence” outside a bar. But because the charges were dropped and his arrest was expunged, Zimmerman was eligible for the concealed carry permit.

    Update 3: Also in 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiancée filed a petition accusing Zimmerman of pushing her during an argument at her Orlando home. He filed a claim the next day saying that “she did it.” [Does this sound familiar?]

  9. Martin attended North Miami’s Krop High School, where he had no record of arrest or disciplinary action for violence. He was serving a one-week suspension “due to tardiness and not misbehavior.”
  10. “When the homeowners association wanted to start a neighborhood watch, only one man stepped up: George Zimmerman…” Zimmerman is not part of a nationally registered neighborhood watch group; there are 22,000 registered groups. Neighborhood watch groups are supposed to report incidents, not try to enforce law.
  11. Zimmerman has not been charged. On March 19, the Florida State Attorney General announced that a federal grand jury investigation would being on April 10.

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law (2005) makes it legal to use deadly force if you believe you are in imminent danger. Zimmerman claimed that “the confrontation was initiated by Trayvon.” Zimmerman was in a car; Martin was walking. Zimmerman had a gun and weighs 250 pounds; Martin did not have a gun and was 6-foot, 3-inches tall and weighed 140 pounds.

Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest. Police Chief Bill Lee said, ““Zimmerman had injuries consistent with his story.”

Update 4b: 12:25 am Sunday
The prime sponsor of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law says Trayvon Martin’s alleged attacker not covered under law I wrote… Mr. Zimmerman’s unnecessary pursuit and confrontation of Trayvon Martin elevated the prospect of a violent episode and does not seem to be an act of self-defense as defined by the castle doctrine. There is no protection in the “Stand Your Ground” law for anyone who pursues and confronts people.

From the Yale Daily News:

As Martin walked down the street, talking to his girlfriend on the phone and keeping to himself, how did he pose a threat to Zimmerman? Zimmerman actively pursued Martin, getting out of his car to confront him while in possession of a handgun, thus calling into question the classification of this case as one of self-defense.

Moreover, neighborhood watch members are encouraged not to carry:

[Chris Tutko, director of the Neighborhood Watch program at the National Sheriffs’ Association, which launched the neighborhood watch concept 40 years ago as a response to rising crime] said he was flabbergasted to learn about a watch captain’s shooting of the 17-year-old Martin last month in Sanford, Fla.
[…] Tutko said it’s highly unusual, and highly discouraged, for a neighborhood watch to be armed.

“You do not carry a weapon during neighborhood watch,” he said flatly. “If you carry a weapon, you’re going to pull it.”

To corroborate Tutko’s assessment, we are learning that “The mere act of holding a gun makes it more likely that you will perceive an object as a gun,” according to James Brockmole, associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame and co-author of an upcoming paper on that phenomenon.

Part 2: How The Trayvon Martin Case Unfolded

[1] Unfortunately, the 20th century had a symbol, too. It’s almost 60 years later and how much progress have we made?

“Trayvon is the Emmitt Till of our generation,” said event co-chair Chris Sullivan. He’s referring to the Mississippi 14-year-old who was beaten to death in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst
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dduck
Guest
dduck
4 years 6 months ago

Nice round up of the information, so far. Thanks KG.

EEllis
Guest
EEllis
4 years 6 months ago

couple of little things, confronting someone while having posesion of a concealed handgun is not the same as confronting someone with a handgun. While I know that narrative has been pushed we really do not know if the firearm ever came out until the shooting, unless you have a source not noted. Police dispatchers have zero authority to give any orders what so ever. They are not law enforcement and can only advise and as such the fact Zimmerman didn’t follow their directions means little except possible to sate of mind.

DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist
Editor
thanks Kathy, that’s a good topology of the situ… and, just this from a person who passed her CC cert. The steady rule drilled into us years ago, is when packing, dont pull a weapon EVER unless you are compelled to fire it. A firearm in CC is not for brandishing around or for intimidating others, or for showing off, or flashing doubtful self-importance, nor for anything else in most situs. A deadly weapon is meant to kill. It’s not an accessory; it’s not meant to make anyone into a pretend Clint Eastwood. It is serious weaponry for serious intent.… Read more »
JMNash
Guest
JMNash
4 years 6 months ago
4. “Zimmerman disobeyed the directive from the police dispatcher not to follow Martin. Zimmerman confronted Martin with a 9mm handgun.” People keep saying this, but there does not appear to be any evidence of it. On the police recording Zimmerman responds “Ok” after being told he didn’t need to follow. According to Martin’s girlfriend, it was Martin who initiated contact, at least verbally ‘why are you following me?’ 5. Guns are not magical rays of instant death that cause people to collapse in neat little piles. Perhaps if you meant to write an honest article about what happened you would… Read more »
dduck
Guest
dduck
4 years 6 months ago

JMN, “Perhaps if you meant to write an honest article about what happened you would mention the part where 3 separate EYE WITNESSES saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, at least one explicitly saw him beating him into the ground.”

Can you give a citation on that?

DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist
Editor

JMN, got links to your facts?

thanks

JMNash
Guest
JMNash
4 years 6 months ago

This is the most supportive of Zimmerman : http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/news/seminole_news/022712-man-shot-and-killed-in-neighborhood-altercation#ixzz1phFMGCu4

Looking for the other two ( a 13 year old and an adult woman). The news cycle has moved on and they are hard to locate now…

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
Admin
4 years 6 months ago
I have been offline for several hours but as someone who had been online and did the post about the reported eyewitness, I have not seen a report yet anywhere about THREE eyewitnesses. And the eyewitness mentioned is reportedly anonymous. None of the major news websites (including Fox News) had the story about the anonymous eyewitness yet on their sites. On this post I am amazed at the emails I got including someone saying I was wrong, lying that it was on a major news website and siting the TV station report that is sited in my posts. These folks… Read more »
petew
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petew
4 years 6 months ago
Of course Zimmerman’s story seems unbelievable, because it probably is false, but I appreciate Kathy Gill’s statement that too much publicity about the case may injure the chances for a just verdict. The most significant indicator of Zimmerman’s culpability, is the fact that a 911 operator specifically told him that they didn’t want him following Trayvon. That, including Gill’s assertion that the young man was found lying face down on the ground, in possession of only of a box of skittles and some ice tea, completes a scenario that casts significant doubt on the unlikely theory that the young man… Read more »
zephyr
Guest
zephyr
4 years 6 months ago

Excellent rundown Kathy. At this point, after reading most of the reports and listening to tapes, it is clear that Zimmerman stalked an innocent person, created a confrontation, and killed a man. Given the information we have at this point I see no evidence that to prompt anyone to believe otherwise. That said, there are people who have their own agendas regarding this incident, agendas that aren’t going to hinge on what actually happened.

bluebelle
Guest
bluebelle
4 years 6 months ago
We don’t know what happened but we do know that the police had a witness change their story about who was yelling for help to Zimmerman– when they couldn’t possibly know for sure that it was him. The police did no forensics, and only drug tested the victim not the perpetrator, and that Zimmerman acted on his own to follow the victim– which is contrary to neighborhood watch protocol and to the directive from the police dispatcher. It seems to me even if a witness saw the kid on top of Zimmerman– which seems unlikely due to his lesser size… Read more »
marksf
Guest
marksf
4 years 6 months ago

That ABC News Video is odd. You’d think that would be HUGE news, but they just kind of threw it in at the end of a segment. Somehow I think they’re confusing 911 calls, and are thinking about the one Zimmerman made with the “coon” comment.

rudi
Guest
rudi
4 years 6 months ago

@JG
The other two witnesses overheard the confrontation. These two women aren’t hiding behind anonymous.
http://themoderatevoice.com/142394/new-trayvon-martin-twist-witness-reportedly-tells-police-martin-attacked-zimmernan/comment-page-1/#comment-303472
Mary Cutcher is the witness. She’s appeared on local Florida and national media to tell her story.
http://www.mediaite.com/tv/anderson-cooper-interviews-witnesses-to-trayvon-martin-shooting/

EEllis
Guest
EEllis
4 years 6 months ago
Did you not read what I typed? In my hypothetical scenario, I CLEARLY said “A guy who has 100 pounds on you steps out of his SUV, maybe brandishing a gun, maybe not” Yes I did read it I also read where you left out the maybe in you highlights of the case. I’m not trying to attack anyone just highlighting points that may have been less than clear I still have a hard time imagining a 140 pound man getting the best of a 250 pound man, but maybe Martin knew martial arts. You might be surprised at how… Read more »
JMNash
Guest
JMNash
4 years 6 months ago

Note: Police estimated Martins size as approximately 6 foot 160 lbs; on the small size for a 17 year old football player, but believable.

They estimated Zimmerman’s height at 5 foot 9, no weight estimate.

http://cnninsession.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/martinpolicreport.pdf

I am not aware of any actually believable source for Zimmerman’s weight. I suspect they are just guestimating from the 7 year old mugshot everyone is using for him.

JMNash
Guest
JMNash
4 years 6 months ago

Follow up : when I say I do not know of any ‘believable source’ for Zimmerman’s weight I will define that as any source that did not also claim he made 46 911 calls since 2011. Reporting on this has not been heavy on fact checking.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/22/george-zimmerman-s-history-of-911-calls-a-complete-log.html

dduck
Guest
dduck
4 years 6 months ago

Seems like a thorough inquiry may clear up some estimates/guesses/etc.

rudi
Guest
rudi
4 years 6 months ago

LoL
This Zimmerman call is priceless.

36. April 22, 2011 – 7:09 p.m.
Type: TEL
Subject: Suspicious activity
Report: Juvenile black male “apprx 7–9” years old, four feet tall “skinny build short blk hair” last seen wearing a blue t-shirt and blue shorts

4 foot BM with Skittles – VERY SCARY

petew
Guest
petew
4 years 5 months ago
No matter what the complete truth is, I think the most important lesson to learn from this mishap, is that paranoia, is a bad reason to invoke the Florida, “Stand your Ground,” law. The law needs to be re-written to include a prohibition about disobeying the advise given by a 911 operator, that, “we don’t need you to do that,” and then, proceeding anyway. In the end the courts are going to have to decide what it means to clearly believe that one is in physical danger, while being in a public place. It is all to sad, that this… Read more »
JMNash
Guest
JMNash
4 years 5 months ago

Everyone keeps saying he disobeyed the operator who said “we don’t need you to do that”.

Nobody ever quotes Zimmerman’s reply.

What was his reply?
“Ok”

What if he followed the direction and ran into Martin on his way back to his truck?

EEllis
Guest
EEllis
4 years 5 months ago
The law needs to be re-written to include a prohibition about disobeying the advise given by a 911 operator, that, “we don’t need you to do that,” and then, proceeding anyway. That is way over the top. You want to require someone to follow the orders of a $12 hr phone operator upon penalty of law? They give advice but cannot give lawful orders for a reason. The biggest one is they are not there and are unable to see the total circumstances involved. Plus the training required would be massive then so would the liability involved. There is just… Read more »
Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
Member

I have been biting my tongue, reading some of the exculpatory/”explanatory”/”cautionary” comments on this heinous case flooding the internet, but this one takes the cake:

“This morning on ABC News, Oliver was asked about the moment on the 911 tapes when some believe that, just prior to killing Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman used a racial slur. Oliver suggested that Zimmerman did not use a racial slur but said ‘“goons,’ which Oliver described as a ‘term of endearment.’”

SteveK
Guest
SteveK
4 years 5 months ago

That is way over the top. You want to require someone to follow the orders of a $12 hr phone operator upon penalty of law?

Your self assured ignorance is really over the top this time EEllis.

As a retired public safety member (fire house not cop shop) I’ve known and for a brief while worked as an emergency dispatcher and I can assure you that they are not “$12 hr phone operator[s].”

Though not able to check identities and issue orders on their own 911 Dispatchers can and do transmit lawful orders from sworn safety personnel.

SteveK
Guest
SteveK
4 years 5 months ago

Edit to ad: Had Zimmerman “backed-off” when told (lawfully or otherwise) to by a 911 Dispatcher a young and promising child would still be alive today.

He had NO BUSINESS confronting the young man.

For the life of me I can’t understand why so many seemingly feel so good regurgitating their “yeah but” scenarios.

JMNash
Guest
JMNash
4 years 5 months ago
Steve K : again, how do we know he did not ‘back off’ after the operator said to? He says Martin ‘jumped him’ on his way back to the truck. Nothing I know of contradicts this; at least allowing for a definition of ‘jumped’ that means ‘panicked and attacked’. Zimmerman claimed he was just trying to keep Martin in sight so he could report to the police where he went. Martin left his route home to avoid Zimmerman. It ain’t that big an area. It seems entirely possible that they found themselves accidentally face to face when GZ headed back… Read more »
ShannonLeee
Guest
ShannonLeee
4 years 5 months ago
The SYG law wont apply here. Z persued T, “something” happened, Z shot and killed T. Z will be convicted of manslaughter, at a mini. Z was looking for trouble, found it, and now will go to jail. the next question is what happens to the police officers involved in this thing…they have some serious explaining to do. “He attacked me so I shot him”, isnt proof enough to let someone walk. If so, we all now have an easy way to get away with murdering someone we dont like…just make sure there are no witnesses… or at least kill… Read more »
ShannonLeee
Guest
ShannonLeee
4 years 5 months ago

btw, great coverage KG… really nice job.

EEllis
Guest
EEllis
4 years 5 months ago
As a retired public safety member (fire house not cop shop) I’ve known and for a brief while worked as an emergency dispatcher and I can assure you that they are not “$12 hr phone operator[s].” Though not able to check identities and issue orders on their own 911 Dispatchers can and do transmit lawful orders from sworn safety personnel. Even on the list you linked there are jobs that are clearly in the range of pay I mentioned. One had starting 911 supervisor pay at $16, what do you think the regular operators start at? I know Tucson starts… Read more »
roro80
Guest
roro80
4 years 5 months ago
It doesn’t matter what 911 operators make. Why is he calling them anyway if he’s going to simply ignore what they say? Your premise, EEllis, is that the operator told him to do something incorrect because the operator was dumb or didn’t care or something, because he or she isn’t making a ton of money. This is simply incorrect. Even if Treyvon were armed and dangerous (especially if he had been), it was most certainly the correct thing to tell Zimmerman not to follow him. One dude with a gun following around another dude with a gun, and then confronting… Read more »
EEllis
Guest
EEllis
4 years 5 months ago

“He attacked me so I shot him”, isnt proof enough to let someone walk. If so, we all now have an easy way to get away with murdering someone we dont like…just make sure there are no witnesses… or at least kill them too and say they also attacked you.

Ummm you do realize that the “shooter” has to prove nothing, it’s the prosecution who must prove otherwise. If GZ said he stopped at any time and retreated then regardless of his previous actions the shooting could easily be legal.

EEllis
Guest
EEllis
4 years 5 months ago
Your premise, EEllis, is that the operator told him to do something incorrect because the operator was dumb or didn’t care or something, because he or she isn’t making a ton of money Quit atributing things to me that I don’t write. I never said anything the operator said was wrong, I said there was no way that people would except taking lawful orders from phone operators some of whom are not all that well trained unfortunately. In Houston starting pay is $12 an hour. A bit above the city jailers but well below police and on par with phone… Read more »
roro80
Guest
roro80
4 years 5 months ago
No, the point isn’t whether or not it was a legal order or command. It was the right thing to do. Zimmerman explicitly did the wrong thing. That’s a huge problem with the gun system we have — it gives people a false sense of security to do the wrong thing, to escalate instead of stabilize the situation, and people end up getting hurt. For example, a few years ago there was a case where an armed robber was robbing a Burger King, and one of the customers started a shoot-out with the robber and ended up killing him. This… Read more »
JMNash
Guest
JMNash
4 years 5 months ago

Thanks for the response, sorry ibdidnt notice it right away. I have actually listened to this before, but was good to do it again.

I am less certain than you seem to be that the sounds we hear directly correlate to walking. I took them for wind noises when I first listened.

Him changing his mind about meeting the police at the mailboxes doesn’t mean anything beyond that. Remember, this was a non-emergency call at this point. Cops could show up in 2 minutes or 2 HOURS. his nice warm truck is much closer.

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