On February 26, 2012, a 17-year-old African-American named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida. The shooter was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white man. (Zimmerman was described by the police as white. According to his family he is also Hispanic.) Zimmerman admits killing Martin, but claims he was acting in self-defense. Weeks after Martin’s death, no arrest has been made and Zimmerman remains free.
Here is what everyone should know about the case:
1. Zimmerman called the police to report Martin’s “suspicious” behavior, which he described as “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman was in his car when he saw Martin walking on the street. He called the police and said: “There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about… These a**holes always get away” [Orlando Sentinel]
2. Zimmerman pursued Martin against the explicit instructions of the police dispatcher:
Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Dispatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”
3. Prior to the release of the 911 tapes, Zimmerman’s father released a statement claiming “[a]t no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin.” [Sun Sentinel]
4. Zimmerman was carrying a 9 millimeter handgun. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. [ABC News]
6. Martin’s English teacher described him “as an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.” [Orlando Sentinel]
7. Martin had no criminal record. [New York Times]
8. Zimmerman “was charged in July 2005 with resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer. The charges appear to have been dropped.” [Huffington Post]
9. Zimmerman called the police 46 times since 2004. [Daily Beast]
10. According to neighbors, Zimmerman was “fixated on crime and focused on young, black males.” [Miami Herald]
11. Zimmerman “had been the subject of complaints by neighbors in his gated community for aggressive tactics” [Huffington Post]
12. A police officer “corrected” a key witness. “The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness. ABC News has spoken to the teacher and she confirmed that the officer corrected her when she said she heard the teenager shout for help.” [ABC News]
13. Three witnesses say they heard a boy cry for help before a shot was fired. “Three witnesses contacted by The Miami Herald say they saw or heard the moments before and after the Miami Gardens teenager’s killing. All three said they heard the last howl for help from a despondent boy.” [Miami Herald]
14. The officer in charge of the crime scene also received criticism in 2010 when he initially failed to arrest a lieutenant’s son who was videotaped attacking a homeless black man. [New York Times]
15. The police did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol. A law enforcement expert told ABC that Zimmerman sounds intoxicated on the 911 tapes. Drug and alcohol testing is “standard procedure in most homicide investigations.” [ABC News]
16. In a cell phone call moments before his death, Martin told a teenage girl that he was “hounded by a strange man on a cellphone who ran after him, cornered him and confronted him.” “‘He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man,’ Martin’s friend said. ‘I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run but he said he was not going to run.’ Eventually he would run, said the girl, thinking that he’d managed to escape. But suddenly the strange man was back, cornering Martin. ‘Trayvon said, ‘What, are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What are you doing here.’” [ABC News]
17. Police have Trayvon Martin’s cell phone but never contacted his girlfriend. [Miami Herald]
18. Zimmerman told the police “he had stepped out of his truck to check the name of the street he was on when Trayvon attacked him from behind as he walked back to his truck.” “He said he feared for his life and fired the semiautomatic handgun he was licensed to carry because he feared for his life.” [Miami Herald]
19. The incident occurred in a tiny gated community Zimmerman patrolled regularly. [Miami Herald]
20. Zimmerman was not a member of a registered Neighborhood Watch group. Zimmerman also violated basic Neighborhood Watch guidelines by carrying a weapon. [ABC News]
21. The police reports were amended to bolster Zimmerman’s claim of self defense. “Initial police reports never mentioned that Zimmerman had a bloody nose or a wet shirt that showed evidence of a struggle.” [Miami Herald]
22. Police ignored witness whose account was different from Zimmerman’s.“One of the witnesses who heard the crying said she called a detective repeatedly, but said he was not interested because her account differed from Zimmerman’s.” [Miami Herald]
23. Just prior to killing Martin, Zimmerman may have used a racial slur. The police admit they initially overlooked the remark. It’s unclear exactly what Zimmerman is saying. [ABC News]
24. Zimmerman still has a permit to carry a concealed weapon in the State of Florida. [ThinkProgress]
25. In April 2011, Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious black male, “7-9″ years old, “skinny build.” [Daily Beast]
26. Zimmerman claims Martin attacked him, punched him in the nose and repeatedly slammed his head on the sidewalk. “With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who eventually shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk, leaving him bloody and battered, law-enforcement authorities told the Orlando Sentinel. That is the account Zimmerman gave police.” [Orlando Sentinel]
27. The lead investigator in Trayvon Martin shooting wanted manslaughter charge against Zimmerman. The lead investigator, Chris Serino, “stated he was unconvinced Zimmerman’s version of events.” His recommendation for a manslaughter charge was overruled by state attorney Norman Wolfinger, who subsequently removed himself from the case. [ABC News] [UPDATE: The Orlando Sentinel disputes the ABC News report. Details here.]
The Martin case had been turned over to the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office.
FBI tells ABC News they are monitoring the Trayvon Martin investigation and have been in touch with local authorities.
On March 20, the United States Department of Justice, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney announced they were launching “a thorough and independent review” of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
The Florida state attorney has sent the Trayvon Martin case to a grand jury. The Seminole County grand jury will be called to session on Tuesday, April 10.
The Sanford city council on 3 to 2 vote, says it has no confidence in police chief Bill Lee.
Police Chief Bill Lee “temporarily” steps down.
The authorities leaked Zimmerman’s account of the incident to the Orlando Sentinel.