Saturday, May 25, 2013
By FRANCES ROBLES McClatchy Newspapers
MIAMI - Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.'s foray into activism started with a Facebook post.
Demonstrators rally for Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. A successful online petition launched after his death gathered 2.2 million signatures calling for the shooter’s arrest.
The Associated Press
SOURCE PROVIDES DETAILS OF POSSIBLE ZIMMERMAN INCONSISTENCIES IN FLORIDA KILLING
ORLANDO, Fla. - George Zimmerman told investigators that while he was on the phone with a Sanford police dispatcher reporting Trayvon Martin as suspicious, the teenager was circling his vehicle on foot, a source familiar with the investigation told the Orlando Sentinel.
The source said Zimmerman's account of events hasn't changed in his several statements to police -- in which he said he was so unnerved by the teenager's behavior that he rolled up his window to avoid a confrontation. However, he never mentioned any of that while talking to the dispatcher.
The details revealed by the source provide new insight into what Zimmerman said happened in the earliest moments of his contact with Martin. And they may reveal the inconsistencies alluded to by prosecutors in the case.
One of those inconsistencies: Zimmerman told police that Martin had his hand over Zimmerman's mouth during their fight on the night he shot Martin.
The Sentinel's source confirmed that Zimmerman's statements include that allegation. But authorities do not believe that happened, the source told the Sentinel, because on one 911 call, someone can be heard screaming for help. If it were Zimmerman, as he claims, his cries were not muffled, the source said.
Zimmerman also told police, the source told the Sentinel, that while the two were on the ground, Martin reached for Zimmerman's gun, and the two struggled over it.
Those portions of Zimmerman's account are not corroborated by other evidence, the source said.
Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, said he hasn't yet seen his client's statements to police, and it would be inappropriate for him to address specific evidence in the case.
"It's hard for me to even comment on it," O'Mara said.
Sgt. David Morgenstern said the Sanford Police Department "cannot make any comments on anything related to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case."
-- The Orlando Sentinel
Someone placed a petition demanding the arrest of Trayvon Martin's killer on Chamberlain's Facebook wall, and that got the New York behavior counselor thinking: What about his own dad's unprosecuted killing?
"I signed Trayvon's petition, sat back and thought, 'Well, maybe I should do a petition,'" he said. "I did and got 1,000 signatures. I was happy with 1,000."
Then came more: Five months after Chamberlain's father was killed in his home by a White Plains, N.Y., police officer, Chamberlain not only has 208,000 online signatures -- he got a grand jury investigation as well.
Across the nation, experts say people disillusioned by the criminal justice system were galvanized by the Trayvon Martin case and took to the Internet to demand that police and prosecutors take a second look at questionable shootings. From New York to Chicago, Atlanta, North Carolina and elsewhere, people whose relatives were killed by police, zealous security guards or neighbors are inundating law enforcement officials with online petitions, calls from attorneys and rallies.
With Trayvon's killer, George Zimmerman, now facing second-degree murder charges, cases that activists say would otherwise have been swept under the rug are gaining new momentum. Social media tools allow anyone to start a petition and keep in touch with the people who signed. Experts say that has played a key role in spreading the word about other killings and helped empower victims, who are often poor and black.
The phenomenon has lifted the veil on dozens of questionable shootings around the nation in which police or prosecutors carried out lackluster investigations or were perceived to have protected law enforcement, activists said.
"This is a message to law enforcement: Families are no longer powerless," said Steven Biel, director of SignOn.org, the online petition site associated with MoveOn.org. "These petitions offer a way to send emails and organize people in an ongoing way. That's the most exciting thing: It's not just petitions, but organizing rallies and making sure the targets understand this is not just a bunch of people clicking a mouse."
Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., 68, was killed Nov. 19 after police went to his apartment responding to a medical alert alarm. An agitated Chamberlain would not let police in, so after a standoff that lasted 90 minutes, police removed the door. Police accused the retired corrections officer and former Marine of coming at them with an ax. Officers Tasered him, shot him with a beanbag shotgun and then killed him with a live round.
The audio of the entire episode was recorded by the medical alert company, which caught the officers using racial epithets and the elder Chamberlain telling a black police officer: "Black officer, why are you letting them do this? Why are your guns drawn?" attorney Randolph McLaughlin said. Video also was captured from the police Tasers.
The Westchester District Attorney declined to comment on the case, saying only that it is being presented to a grand jury. The five-month delay was necessary to gather forensic reports and other evidence, spokesman Lucien Chalfen said.
"It's been investigated from the beginning," Chalfen said. "It did not take a long time to take to a grand jury. It's within the margin of error for the appropriate length of time."
Although Chamberlain's shooting has stark differences from Trayvon's, the two have been likened as incidents in which media attention and activism are credited for reopening investigations.
"They are killing young men in Florida and killing old men in New York, but there are significant differences in the cases," said McLaughlin, an attorney with the law firm Newman Ferrara in New York. "There are also similarities: Trayvon was walking while black, while Mr. Chamberlain was just living while black."
(Continued on page 2)