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Florida v. Zimmerman

It was a dark and stormy night on Sunday February 26, 2012.

As he often did on Sunday evenings, George Zimmerman was driving to the market to buy groceries. On the way, he saw Trayvon Martin in the vicinity of 111 Retreat View Circle in The Retreat at Twin Lakes, a gated townhouse community where George Zimmerman lived and was a Community Watch volunteer. When George saw Trayvon, he called the Sanford, Florida Police Department.

The Call

To hear the call, click the play button below

The Text of The Call

Below is a transcript of the audio call George Zimmerman made to 911 about Trayvon Martin.

Dispatcher: Sanford Police Department. This line is being recorded. This is Sean.

Zimmerman: Hey, we've had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there's a real suspicious guy, uh, it's Retreat View Circle, um, the best address I can give you is One Eleven Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or sumpin’. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about.

Dispatcher: Okay, is this guy, is he white, black or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

Dispatcher: Did you see what he was wearin’?

Zimmerman: Yeah, Mmm, a dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie, and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes. He's here now, he was just staring.

Dispatcher: Okay, he's just walking around the area?

Zimmerman: Looking at all the houses.

Dispatcher: Okay…

Zimmerman: Now he's just staring at me.

Dispatcher: Okay, and you said it's One One One One Retreat View? Or One Eleven?

Zimmerman: That's the, that’s the clubhouse…

Dispatcher: That's the clubhouse; do you know what the…He's near the clubhouse right now?

Zimmerman: Yeah, now he's comin’ towards me.

Dispatcher: Okay.

Zimmerman: He's got his hand in his waistband. And he's a black male.

Dispatcher: Okay. How old would you say he looks?

Zimmerman: He's got a button on his shirt. Late teens.

Dispatcher: Late teens? Okay.

Zimmerman: Mm Hmm Something’s wrong with him. Yup, he's comin’ to check me out. He's got sumpin’ up in his hands. I don't know what his deal is.

Dispatcher: Okay, just let me know if he does anything, okay?

Zimmerman: (Please get) an officer over here.

Dispatcher: Yeah, we've got ‘em on the way. Just let me know if this guy does anything else.

Zimmerman: Okay. [Time: 1 minute 36 seconds] These assholes, they always get away.

[Questioned sounds][Time: 1 minute 46 seconds]

Yep. When you come to the clubhouse you come straight in and make a left. Actually you’d, you would go past the clubhouse.

Dispatcher: So it's on the left hand side from the clubhouse?

Zimmerman: No, you go in straight through the entrance and then you make a left, uh, yeah, you go straight in, don't turn, and make a left. Shit, he's running.

Dispatcher: He's running? Which way is he running?

Zimmerman: Down towards the uh, other entrance to the neighborhood.

Dispatcher: Okay, which entrance is that that he's heading towards?

Zimmerman: The back entrance. [wind sounds] [Time: 2 minutes 23 seconds] It’s fuckin’ cold.

Dispatcher: Are you following him?

Zimmerman: Yeah.

Dispatcher: Okay, we don't need you to do that.

Zimmerman: Okay.

Dispatcher: Alright sir, what is your name?

Zimmerman: George…He ran.

Dispatcher: Alright George, what's your last name?

Zimmerman: Zimmerman

Dispatcher: And George what's the phone number you're calling from?

Zimmerman: 407-435-2400.

Dispatcher: Alright, George we do have them on the way. Do you want to meet with the officer when they get out there?

Zimmerman: Yeah.

Dispatcher: Alright, where you going to meet with them at?

Zimmerman: Um, if they come in through the, uh, gate, tell them to go straight past the club house, and uh, straight past the club house and make a left, and then they go past the mailboxes, that's my truck...[unintelligible]

Dispatcher: What address are you parked in front of?

Zimmerman: Uhm, I don't know, it's a cut through so I don't know the address.

Dispatcher: Okay do you live in the area?

Zimmerman: Yeah, yeah, I...[unintelligible]

Dispatcher: What's your apartment number?

Zimmerman: It's a home. It's One Nine Five Zero, oh crap, I don't want to give it all out, I don't know where this kid is.

Dispatcher: Okay do you want to just meet with them right near the mailboxes then?

Zimmerman: Yeah that's fine.

Dispatcher: Alright, George, I'll let them know to meet you around there, okay?

Zimmerman: Actually, could you have them, could you have them call me and I'll tell them where I'm at?

Dispatcher: Okay, yeah that's no problem.

Zimmerman: Should I give you my number or you got it?

Dispatcher: Yeah I got it; 407-435-2400.

Zimmerman: Yeah, you got it.

Dispatcher: Okay no problem, I'll let them know to call you when they’re in the area.

Zimmerman: Thanks.

Dispatcher: You're welcome.

A Crucial Question

At time 1:34.683 George said, "These assholes, they always get away."

It was asserted by a potential expert for the prosecution that George went on to say "but not on me". That phrase would have been crucial in determining George's state of mind and intention. If he really said it, that phrase would be damning because it would have shown that even before he encountered Trayvon Martin he had determined that Trayvon would not get away.

By separating the questioned material from the surrounding context, as well as the use of graphical techniques, I was able to demonstrate that George did not utter those words. Testimony regarding that alleged phrase was not allowed at trial.

To hear the sounds that follow "These assholes, they always get away", click the play button below

These sounds are an odd admixture of breaths, background sounds, and possibly the whispered word "God". However, when heard in isolation, it is clear that George did not say "but not on me".

Who Was George Zimmerman?

George's father Robert was a third-generation Army veteran.

George's mother Gladys was Peruvian. On vacation in the US visiting her brother, who was one of Robert's Army buddies, she met Robert. At the time, she spoke very little English. Robert's Spanish was not a lot better. Nonetheless, they soon got married in a civil ceremony, but she refused to consummate the marriage until they were properly married in the Catholic Church.

Gladys became a leader in the church community. She often took George with her on visits to the poor and needy and inculcated in him the concept that it was his duty to be a protector of those who needed his help.

Between his father's military background and the aspirations inculcated in him by his mother, George came to think of himself as a hero.

Nonetheless, or possibly because of his self-image, George was in legal disputes and in trouble with the law on various occasions.

Who Was Trayvon Martin?

Less is known about Trayvon Martin.

He had no criminal record.

He had been suspended from school for having an empty baggie with traces of marijuana. He received a 10-day suspension from Krop High School in Miami. He had been suspended previously for writing WTF on a locker. At that time, his knapsack was found to contain items of women's jewelry and a screwdriver, which was deemed a possible burglary tool.

Items taken from Trayvon's cell phone included texts about drug use, a picture of a gun and a marijuana plant.

Though his mother Sabrina Fulton often referred to Trayvon as her precious baby, we know from his cellphone that she sent him to live with his father.

Sent: My mom just told me I gotta move wit my dad
Read: So what does that mean?
Sent: She just kickd me out

Also from his cellphone, we know that he was proud of his fighting ability and that his older brother wanted Trayvon to give him fighting lessons, though this information was not allowed at the trial.

The Conclusion

It was a dark and stormy night.

It was the perfect storm.

Wanna'-be hero with a gun meets wanna'-be thug with fists.

The result was inevitable.

Media, Celebrities and Politicians

NBC Television At 29 seconds into the recording, Zimmerman responds to the dispatcher's question:

Zimmerman: … and he's just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: Okay, is this guy, is he white, black or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.

On NBC television, the dispatcher's question was deleted, which made it seem as though George gratuitiously gave that information with no prompting.

Director Spike Lee tweeted what he thought was Zimmerman's home address. The address turned out to be incorrect, causing the real occupants, Elaine and David McClain, to leave home and stay at a hotel due to numerous death threats.

Knowing this, Lee later tweeted Zimmerman’s correct home address.

Actress Roseanne Barr tweeted Zimmerman's parents' correct home address. After taking it down she wrote: "If Zimmerman isn't arrested I'll [re-tweet] his address again. maybe go 2 his house myself."

President Obama said "I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together—federal, state and local—to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.
But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

Attorney General Holder said the death of Martin was "a tragic, unnecessary shooting."

The Results

The results have been inevitable.

Epilogue: "What do we want?" "Dead Cops"

A crowd of demonstrators marching in New York was videoed as they repeated antiphonal chants. Some listeners thought they were saying

"What do we want?" "Dead Cops"
"When do we want it?" "Now"

Other listeners, including and radio talk show host Thom Hartman claim that they did not hear it that way.

I was contacted by Tasneem Nasrulla, a correspondent for online new service BuzzFeed, who asked that I resolve the issue. I applied filtering techniques to reduce the background sounds in order to make the chant clear. You can hear the filtered clear version of the chants here:

View the complete BuzzFeed news story.

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