On the night George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, the 140-pound teenager knocked him down with a single punch and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times, Zimmerman told police in Sanford, Fla. The neighborhood-watch volunteer, who weighs more than 200 pounds, said he was walking back to his sport-utility vehicle when Martin approached him from behind. The two exchanged words before the teenager began beating him, he said.
Zimmerman, 28, suffered a broken nose, a gash to his head, and other injuries, according to Sanford police reports. He traveled to the police station that night to give his account of events and then went home. Sanford police confirm that he did not warrant medical attention at the scene and did not seek medical attention until the next day.
After nearly a month of silence, friends and lawyers for Zimmerman have begun to speak out in support of him, offering varying accounts of the deadly events of Feb. 26. From the Orlando Sentinel to ABC News, Zimmerman’s team has gone into attack mode, arguing that their friend and client is far from racist and that he was truly in fear for his life during his brief encounter with the unarmed Martin.
Zimmerman’s story of that evening is in sharp contrast to recently released 911 tapes that appear to show Zimmerman following Martin, though police asked him not to, and also contradicts Martin’s girlfriend’s statement that she urged the teenager to run after he noticed a man trailing him in an SUV.
“The young girl who was speaking to Trayvon on the cellphone was on the phone the entire time and heard Zimmerman approach him,” said Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Martin family. “Trayvon turned around, asked him why he was following him, and Zimmerman asked Trayvon what he was doing there. That does not sound like Travyon approached him first or attacked him.”
Craig Sonner, Zimmerman’s attorney, said the 911 tapes released so far in the Martin case relay only half of the chain of events of that night. The complete 911 tapes back up his client’s claims of self-defense, Sonner told the Today show, and he plans to invoke Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which provides significant leeway for people who fear their life may be in jeopardy. He could not be reached by The Daily Beast.
Leslie Rogan, a Sanford, Fla., high-school teacher who attended the Sanford City Commission’s meeting on Monday reviewing Martin’s case, questioned Zimmerman’s account of his injuries and asked why, if they were serious, he didn’t need immediate medical attention.
“It doesn’t add up to me,” she said. “I know people who have had broken noses, and you don’t go to the hospital the next day. You’re in far too much pain to do anything but go to the hospital as soon as it happens. So many lies have been told by the police that I can’t believe anything they say at this point.”
The slain teenager’s mother insisted her son would have stood his ground in the face of danger.
“He wouldn’t confront anyone unprovoked, but if he felt his life was in danger, he’d try to protect himself,” said Sybrina Fulton.
Police did not retrieve Zimmerman’s clothing that night, nor did they conduct a drug test on the neighborhood-watch volunteer.
“I know people who have had broken noses, and you don’t go to the hospital the next day. You’re in far too much pain to do anything but go to the hospital as soon as it happens.”
Along with news of Zimmerman’s firsthand account of the shooting and personal injuries, stories about the victim’s background have begun surface. Several news outlets reported Monday that Martin had recently been suspended from his high school in Miami for having an empty bag with marijuana residue in it. The teenager was in Sanford with his father as a result of that suspension. Martin also was previously suspended for being tardy to class.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is all too familiar with controversial cases involving race and the police, said he wasn’t surprised that negative information about the victim was being brought to light.
“They didn’t even bother to put yellow tape around the murder scene when he died,” Rev. Jackson, who has been counseling Martin’s parents, told The Daily Beast. “That’s how much the police did to find out what happened to this young boy. But now we hear about his school record and everything else he may have done. It’s a classic case of putting the victim on trial. They drug-test the boy—but not the man who shot and killed him. George Zimmerman has a police record. Trayvon does not. So why are we putting Trayvon on trial? There is no violence in his background.”
In 2005, Zimmerman was accused twice of criminal misconduct and violence. Arrested at a bar near the University of Central Florida after an altercation with police, he was later charged with resisting arrest. He was not convicted but entered a pretrial diversion program, common for first-time offenders. Later that year, records show that a woman filed a petition for an injunction against Zimmerman, alleging domestic violence. He filed his own petition against the woman the next day. Injunctions were later issued against both.
“This case isn’t going away any time soon,” said Rev. Jackson, adding that Martin’s mother is “broken and just holding on.” “No matter what methods they use to try hurt his reputation or whoever comes out to say what. There will be justice for Trayvon.”
After the City Commission’s meeting ended Monday, thousands of people lined the streets of Sanford to renew their demands for an arrest in Martin’s killing.
“They can say that child did anything they want because he’s dead,” said Rogan. “They’re going to make Trayvon the villain because they want to get Zimmerman off. They’ll say anything to keep him out of jail, where he belongs. But I don’t buy it and never will.”