Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman: What Happened?
An arguer on Facebook caused me listen to and to read the transcripts of all the calls to police the night Trayvon Martin died. Since I’ve gone to that effort, figured I might as well post my two cents here. Note: that’s exactly what this post is worth when compared to the real world impact on these two people: two cents.
First off, this is entirely based on the calls to police, not at all based on police reports based on Zimmerman’s statements. Anything he told police is suspect, since he had just shot and killed a person; if he had committed a crime he would have extraordinarily high incentives to lie to the police to cover it up.
What was Zimmerman’s motivation to call police? In the call, he never said that Martin was checking out or even looking at houses. He said “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about.” That was the ENTIRE reason Zimmerman provided for calling the police.
It was raining hard. Zimmerman saw Martin next to the clubhouse, which provided cover from the rain. If you were caught in a rainstorm, would you not also seek shelter? How many options for that do you think there were in that townhouse community? Was Martin’s behavior suspicious? He was reportedly “walking around looking about” next to the clubhouse. Would it have been less suspicious if he had stood still?
Put yourself there. You’re walking home. It starts to pour down rain. You duck under the cover of the clubhouse, because it’s the most obvious cover you can see. You’re 17 and bored, so you walk around checking the place out, looking in the windows because it’s unfamiliar to you. Then you see an SUV slowly drive up nearby. You can’t tell what the person inside is doing. Maybe you move closer to see if you can tell if he’s watching you. You decide that he is. Maybe he’s a child molester. Maybe it’s somebody who intends you some other harm. You don’t know. Maybe you’re scared by this. What do you do?
When Zimmerman says that Martin runs, you can hear on the tape that Zimmerman gets out of his vehicle and starts running after him. The police operator tells him not to do that. Zimmerman says okay. But he keeps pursuing him, despite the rain. Near the end of the call, 90 seconds later, Zimmerman asks the operator that rather than meet at his parked SUV, have the responding police call him, and he’ll let them know where he is. Clearly, not only had he disregarded the instruction NOT to follow to that point, but he had no intention of returning to his vehicle. My guess is that he continued to pursue Martin until he got jumped.
If you were Zimmerman, and you were told by the police not to follow but did so anyway, and the physical evidence proves this (the shooting occurred away from your vehicle, though I haven’t seen anything showing exactly where), how would you explain it? OF COURSE you might say that you were on your way back to your vehicle. But the evidence indicates that Zimmerman continued his pursuit for at least 90 seconds after being told to stop, and at that point had no intention of returning to his vehicle.
So we’ve got a 17-year-old kid, who thinks somebody might be watching him, running away from the situation and probably seeing Zimmerman following him. At this point, Martin’s suspicions that the guy in the SUV meant him harm seem to be confirmed. Did Zimmerman ask Martin what he was doing there? No. Did he call out to tell Martin to stop running? Not in the first 99 seconds of the pursuit. I think Zimmerman made no effort to communicate with Martin, and the outcome would likely have been different if he had.
Could Martin have called out for help? Yes. Could he have have banged on doors? Yes. But in an unfamiliar place, ambushing the person you think is hunting you is an understandable reaction. My guess is that Martin surprised Zimmerman and quickly overpowered him. The cries for help described and heard on 911 calls I think were Zimmerman’s, as Martin had the advantage. Right up until the moment he was shot in the chest.
I know nothing of the Florida laws that apply to this case. It may be that technically no crime was committed, despite the obvious and enormous injustice.
If the criminal law provides no relief, Martin’s parents likely have a civil case, as Zimmerman seems responsible for Trayvon’s death. From the moment of Zimmerman’s call to police, the proximate cause of the deadly encounter was Zimmerman ignoring the police instruction not to follow. If he had not pursued Martin, there would have been no shooting. Period.
Like I said, that’s two cents worth, a guess, nothing more. We should all reserve judgment pending more information.