Police report: Encounter between Zimmerman, Martin was ‘avoidable’
Published: Friday, May 18, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 18, 2012 12:05
ORLANDO, Fla. — Police in Sanford, Fla., believed the encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was “ultimately avoidable” if Zimmerman had “remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement.”
“There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter,” said one police report in hundreds of pages of evidence released Thursday.
The evidence — released by special prosecutor Angela Corey’s office — included recorded witness interviews, dozens of photos, several videos, the autopsy and other investigative reports. It also confirmed that Sanford police at one point recommended a manslaughter charge.
The evidence, though, was also noteworthy for what was missing: any clear indication of who started the fight that led to the fatal shooting. The evidence released also did not include any of the statements 28-year-old Zimmerman made to police after the shooting.
Several witnesses told police they saw the two on the ground fighting, but investigators talked to no one who saw how the fight started or saw Zimmerman on top. One witness said that 17-year-old Martin was on top.
And crime-lab experts found that Zimmerman’s blood was on several pieces of evidence: his shirt, his jacket, his gun and Martin’s shirt.
Among the pieces of evidence released was a photocopy of a photo taken of Zimmerman at the scene. In it, he has a bloody, swollen nose.
Sanford Officer Michael Wagner pulled out his personal iPhone, he wrote in his report, and shot the photo. It appeared to him, Wagner wrote, that Zimmerman’s nose was broken.
“I also saw that the back of Zimmerman’s head was also bloodied,” Wagner wrote.
Martin’s autopsy showed that he died of a shot to the heart and that the gun was so close, it had left gunpowder burns on his skin.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement firearms expert Amy Siewert examined Martin’s gray sweat shirt and gray hoodie for powder burns and wrote that she found them on both garments, prompting her to conclude that the muzzle of the gun was touching them when Zimmerman pulled the trigger.
The Volusia County Medical Examiner’s Office found just one other injury on Martin’s body: a small “abrasion” on one finger of his left hand. It also found THC — the active chemical in marijuana — in the teen’s blood and urine.
And they gave definitive word on his size: 5-foot-11, 158 pounds. Zimmerman’s family has said Zimmerman was 5-foot-8 and about 190 pounds.
“First of all, we’re happy that all the evidence is out,” said Benjamin Crump, the Martin family’s attorney. Now, he said, everyone can see the totality of the evidence and “interpret it themselves.”
Crump downplayed injuries to Zimmerman; Martin, he said, “was fighting for his life” against “a man with a 9 mm gun.” The best evidence, he said, was that police said the situation was ultimately avoidable.
“Whatever happened was because George Zimmerman made his decision to profile and pursue Trayvon Martin,” Crump said. Based on the evidence, “you have to conclude that the only reason Trayvon Martin is dead is because George Zimmerman profiled him that night.”
Zimmerman faces a second-degree-murder charge in Martin’s Feb. 26 killing. He has claimed self-defense, telling investigators that the teen knocked him down and bashed his head against concrete.
Sanford police initially did not arrest Zimmerman, sparking outcry that developed into an international controversy. After weeks of rallies and protests, an arrest was made April 11.
Martin, an unarmed teenager from Miami Gardens, was returning from a local 7-Eleven to his father’s girlfriend’s house in the Retreat at Twin Lakes when he encountered Zimmerman.
An unnamed girl, the one identified by the Martin family attorney as Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend, may be one of the case’s most important witnesses. She told prosecutors that she and Martin talked by cellphone on and off as he went to the store that evening.
She said Martin told her a white man in a vehicle was watching him. Martin started walking, and the call cut off, she said. When she called back, “he said this man is still following him.”
The girl said Martin started running, “and then he said he lost him (Zimmerman)],” she said, adding that the teen’s “voice kind of changed … I could tell he was scared. And in a couple minutes, he said a man’s following him again.”
She said Trayvon asked, “Why are you following me for?” and a man’s voice said, “What are you doing around here?” Then she heard a noise, and the call cut off.
It’s not clear what happened next, but a fight ensued, police have said Zimmerman told them.
A 911 call shows that someone was screaming for help in the background, but two FBI audio specialists tried to identify who and concluded it was impossible. The quality of the recording was not good enough, and the screams didn’t last long enough, they wrote.