Documents shed new light on Trayvon Martin killing
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Trayvon Martin’s autopsy shows he had marijuana in his system the night he was killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, and a gunshot to his chest came from close range, according to nearly 200 pages of previously undisclosed documents released Thursday.
At least one investigator wanted to charge Zimmerman with manslaughter but was overruled, according to the documents, which are shedding new light on a case that has raised questions about racial profiling and “stand your ground” laws. The investigator, who was on the scene after the shooting, wrote on March 13 that the confrontation should have been avoided. That report came nearly a month before Zimmerman was arrested.
The documents, photos and video were turned over by prosecutors to defense attorneys earlier this week before they were released to the media. Included in the many witness interviews were accounts by an acquaintance of Zimmerman’s who said he’s racist and a co-worker who said Zimmerman bullied him and mocked him with an exaggerated Middle Eastern accent.
The autopsy says medical examiners found THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, when they tested Martin’s blood and urine. A police report shows the 17-year-old had been shot once in the chest and had been pronounced dead at the scene. The autopsy says the fatal shot was fired from no more than 18 inches away.
Also in the package is a photo showing Zimmerman with a bloody nose on the night of the fight. A paramedic report says Zimmerman had a 1-inch laceration on his head and forehead abrasion.
“Bleeding tenderness to his nose, and a small laceration to the back of his head. All injuries have minor bleeding,” paramedic Michael Brandy wrote about Zimmerman’s injuries in the report.
Whether Zimmerman was injured in the Feb. 26 altercation with Martin has been a key question. The 28-year-old Zimmerman has claimed self-defense and said he only fired because the unarmed teenager attacked him.
Zimmerman was not arrested for weeks because he invoked the Florida’s law that does not require a person to retreat in the face of a serious threat. He was released on bail and is in hiding while he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge. He has pleaded not guilty.
The investigator who called for Zimmerman’s arrest, Christopher Serino, told prosecutors in March that the fight could have been avoided if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement. He said Zimmerman, after leaving his vehicle, could have identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and talked to him instead of confronting him.
He said there is no evidence Martin was involved in any criminal activity.
The lawyer for Martin’s parents seized on the investigator’s recommendation.
“The police concluded that none of this would have happened if George Zimmerman hadn’t gotten out of his car,” said attorney Ben Crump. “If George Zimmerman hadn’t gotten out of his car, they say it was completely avoidable. That is the headline.”
A separate report written by Serino at the crime scene says Martin had $40.15, Skittles candy, a red lighter, headphones and a photo pin in his pocket. A single 9mm shell casing was found near Martin’s body.
New witness accounts also emerged Thursday. A witness, whose name is redacted, told investigators he saw “a black male, wearing a dark colored hoodie,” on top of a white or Hispanic male who was yelling for help.
The witness, who was looking out the sliding glass door at his home about 30 feet away, said he saw the black male throwing punches “MMA (mixed martial arts) style.”
He said he told the fighters he was calling the police. He said that as he was making the call, he heard a shot. He looked outside and saw the person who had been on top laid out on the grass as if he had been shot. He said the other fighter was standing on the sidewalk, talking to another person with a flashlight.
The case has become a national racial flashpoint because the Martin family and supporters contend Zimmerman singled Martin out because he was black.
Two acquaintances paint an unflattering picture of Zimmerman in police interviews.
A distraught woman tells an investigator that she stays away from Zimmerman because he’s racist and because of things he’s done to her in the past, but she didn’t elaborate on what happened between them.
“I don’t at all know who this kid was or anything else. But I know George, and I know that he does not like black people. He would start something. He’s very confrontational. It’s in his blood. We’ll just say that,” the unidentified woman says in an audio recording.
A man whose name was deleted from the audio told investigators that he worked with Zimmerman in 2008 for a few months. It wasn’t clear which company it was.
The man, who described his heritage as “Middle Eastern,” said that when he first started many employees didn’t like him. Zimmerman seized on this, the employee said, and bullied him.
Zimmerman wanted to “get in” with the clique at work so he exaggerated a Middle Eastern accent when talking about the employee, the man said. The employee told investigators that Zimmerman made reference to terrorists and bombings when talking about him.
“It was so immature,” said the employee, who ended up writing a letter to management about Zimmerman.
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