The death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was tragically shot by a neighbourhood watchman while walking home armed with Skittles and iced tea, has captivated the country this week, sparking national outcry over racial profiling, vigilantism, and sweeping “Shoot First” self-defence laws.At the centre of the furor is George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old community watch man who has admitted to chasing Martin down and shooting him twice. Zimmerman has not been arrested by local authorities, on the grounds that he was acting in self-defence.
Not much is known about Zimmerman, who has been conspicuously silent since the incident. He has alternatively been identified as white and as Hispanic, a distinction that many pundits apparently see as crucial to determining whether race was a motivating factor in Martin’s death. neighbours of the Zimmerman family told the Associated Press that Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Peruvian. (Although it is not clear why Zimmerman’s Hispanic background should rule out racial motivation in the slaying of a black teen.)
According to the AP, Zimmerman was a self-styled one-man neighbourhood watch, making nearly 50 calls to police in Sanford, Fla., over the past 8 years. He took criminal justice classes at a local community college and even considered a career in law enforcement. In 2011, Zimmerman worked with police to form a formal neighbourhood watch group in his gated community, and acted as the group’s liaison to the Sanford PD.
A 47-page document of Zimmerman’s most recent 9-1-1 calls, posted online by the city of Sanford today, paints a portrait of a man who was obsessed with law-and-order. Most of the calls relate to suburban mundanities (kids jumping fences, suspicious cars), but he appears to have been particularly concerned about the behaviour of young black males.
Mother Jones’ Adam Weinstein draws our attention to these calls:
In August 2011, he called to report a black male in a tank top and shorts acting suspicious near the development’s back entrance. “[Complainant] believes [subject] is involved in recent S-21s”—break-ins—”in the neighbourhood,” the call log states. The suspect, Zimmerman told the dispatcher, fit a recent description given out by law enforcement officers.
Three days later, he called to report two black teens in the same area, for the same reason. “[Juveniles] are the subjs who have been [burglarizing] in this area,” he told the dispatcher.
And last month, on Feb. 2, Zimmerman called to report a suspicious black man in a leather jacket near one of the development’s units. The resident of that townhouse, Zimmerman told dispatch, was a white male. Police stopped by to investigate, but no one was there, and the residence was secure.
After that, there’s one final call logged in the report. At 7:11 on February 26, Zimmerman called police to report a black male in a dark grey hoodie. A few minutes later, that male—Trayvon Martin—lay dead on the sidewalk.
Tapes of the 9-1-1 call show that the dispatcher told Zimmerman not to act on his suspicions, but before police arrived, Martin was dead.
UPDATE, 5:24 p.m.:
A scan of the online court records for Orange County, Fla., where Zimmerman lives, shows that a man of the same name and age was accused of violent behaviour twice in 2005, once for resisting arrest and battery of a law enforcement officer, and once for domestic violence.
The outcomes of both cases are sealed.
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