Wednesday, June 19, 2013
The Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. — Ex-neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman called police at least six times in the months before he shot Trayvon Martin to death, reporting activity as benign as kids playing in the street to detailing the description of a suspected burglar.
In this June 29, 2012 file photo, George Zimmerman, left, and attorney Don West appear before Circuit Judge Kenneth R. Lester, Jr. during a bond hearing at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman called police multiple times to report black men he thought were suspicious in his neighborhood in the months before he fatally shot an African-American teen, but both his ex-fiance and the lead detective investigating Trayvon Martin's death didn't regard the ex-neighborhood watch leader as racist, according to documents and recordings released Thursday, July 12, 2012 by prosecutors. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool, File)
The documents and recordings released Thursday point to Zimmerman's growing frustration with suspects getting away with petty crimes in his gated community, though they do little to clear up what happened on the night of the shooting.
In August 2011, Zimmerman called Sanford Police's nonemergency line to report a man in the neighborhood who his wife thought was responsible for an earlier burglary.
"If you'll let the officers know they typically run away quickly and I think they head to the next neighborhood over," Zimmerman said in the call.
When asked by a dispatcher, Zimmerman said the suspect was black. His wife, Shellie, is heard in the background telling Zimmerman not to go outside to follow the suspect.
In a Feb. 2 call, less than a month before the fatal shooting, Zimmerman described a suspicious man at a neighbor's house. When asked, he said the man was black, wearing a black leather jacket, black hat with ear flaps and black pajama pants.
"He keeps going to this guy's house. I know him. I know the resident. He's Caucasian," Zimmerman said. "He is going up to the house and then going along the side of it and then coming straight and then going back to it. I don't know what he's doing. I don't want to approach him, personally."
On Feb. 26, Zimmerman's response was different. He spotted Martin walking through the gated community in Sanford. Martin was walking back to a house he was staying at in the community after a trip to a convenience store to buy Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman started to follow him. Despite a police dispatcher telling him "you don't have to do that," Zimmerman gets out of his truck to pursue Martin.
"These a------s, they always get away," Zimmerman said on the call.
The calls were among close to 50 that Zimmerman made to Sanford police over the past eight years.
Prosecutors and Martin's family believe the teenager was racially profiled by Zimmerman. Martin was black. Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Peruvian.
The lead detective investigating Martin's death told FBI agents that he believed Zimmerman followed Martin because the teen was wearing a hoodie and because of previous burglaries in the community, not because Martin was black, according to the documents released Thursday. Local gang members were known to wear hoodies and the gated community had had a rash of break-ins, many by young black men, neighbors told police.
Detective Chris Serino described Zimmerman as overzealous and as having a "little hero complex" but not as a racist, according to the FBI report.
The FBI has been probing the handling of Martin's death for any civil rights violations, but the agency hasn't released any findings.
Zimmerman's ex-fiancée told FBI agents that he had never exhibited any prejudices. She "observed Zimmerman as he socialized and played basketball with white, black and Hispanic men," the FBI report said. "Zimmerman's friends were from all of these racial groups."
The unidentified woman, who was engaged to Zimmerman a decade ago, told agents he had a temper but added she thought it was exacerbated by his use of acne medicine. During arguments, he would sometimes threaten to kill himself by driving into a lake or taking pills but the ex-fiancée believed he was only trying to generate sympathy and wasn't serious.
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