Very little has been publicly known about the past of George Zimmerman, the self-styled neighborhood watch captain responsible for the shooting of Trayvon Martin over a month ago. In recent days, information has been steadily released through various media outlets referencing his family, history of violence, and hyper vigilance in relation to upholding the law. While beginning to provide more clarity in terms of his background, this information has also opened up the doors to questions regarding whether the death of Trayvon Martin could have been prevented.
Here is what is known:
Zimmerman grew up in a strict Catholic family in Manassas, Virginia. His father, retired Virginia Supreme Court magistrate Robert J. Zimmerman, is retired military, and from all accounts raised his children in an authoritarian manner denoting that. Neighbors from his childhood have stated that both he and his siblings were kept sheltered in their home, and were not permitted to play with neighborhood children. Virginia police records show that George Zimmerman was the victim of an assault shortly before relocating to Florida. It is likely that this event, in conjunction with his upbringing, played a prominent role in his lifelong desire to work in law enforcement.
Zimmerman relocated to Lake Mary, Florida in 2002. In 2004, Robert and Gladys Zimmerman had George’s name removed from the deed to a house in Lake Mary.
In early 2005, he was arrested outside of a bar and charged with resisting a police officer with violence. Ordinarily, this would have resulted in jail time and a felony, however the charges were reduced to resisting an officer without violence, and Zimmerman avoided conviction by entering a pre-trial diversion program of alcohol education. In the state of Florida, pre-trial diversion programs are generally only available to first time offenders charged with misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies.
Later in 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiance, Veronica Zuaco filed a “civil motion for a restraining order alleging domestic violence”. Zimmerman later counter filed for a restraining order against Zuaco, both orders were granted.
Beginning in 2004, and ending with the 911 call the night of Trayvon Martin’s death, George Zimmerman placed at least 47 publicly documented complaints to police. Two of these calls, made while Zimmerman resided in Lake Mary, were placed in reference to an ex-roommate who was allowing people Zimmerman did not like into his apartment. Zimmermnan also called to report people throwing items at his truck.
In 2004, Zimmerman called the police reporting having seen a man steal a television, and remained on the line while following the purported thief until police arrived to handle the situation. In the same year, Zimmerman again pursued an individual whom he claimed had spit on him, after having called the police to report the offense. There are no records of arrests made in either case. In addition to the reports stated above, Zimmerman made several calls about open garage doors, unattended dogs, and suspicious vehicles in his community in Lake Mary.
George Zimmerman was married in 2007, to cosmetologist Shellie Nicole Dean, and in 2009 the couple moved to a gated community named “The Retreat At Twin Lakes” in Sanford, Florida, located a few miles from their previous residence. He began taking classes in law enforcement at Seminole State University, and took charge of his new community’s neighborhood watch program. He arranged neighborhood watch and safety trainings for the community which were conducted by members of the Sanford Police Department.
By all reports, Zimmerman took leading the neighborhood watch very seriously. On multiple occasions, calls from him to the Sanford Police are documented reporting suspicious individuals in the Twin Lakes community. In each of the “suspicious individual” complaints, it is noted that said suspicious individuals were african-american males.
The last call to the Sanford Police placed by George Zimmerman was placed the night of February 26th, 2012. Police arrived to find George Zimmerman standing next to a dead Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman claimed self defense, and was taken in to the Sanford Police Department for questioning. He was later released, and although the lead investigator on his case recommended a manslaughter charge to State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, the recommendation was turned down as Wolfinger deemed there to be not enough evidence.
This is the point where “what we know” becomes increasingly cloudy. In the month that has passed since Trayvon Martin’s death, all aspects of the original investigation have come under scrutiny. Several witnesses interviewed at the time of the shooting have since spoken out against the manner in which they were interviewed by police, alleging that they were led by investigators in their accounting of the events of February 26.
In the days following the shooting, retired magistrate Robert Zimmerman wrote a letter defending his son, saying that there is no way George Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin that night, and that his son could never be called a racist. Shortly after this letter the 911 tapes were released, and it is made apparent that not only did Zimmerman pursue Trayvon Martin, but he is heard very clearly using a racial slur in reference to Martin, and african-americans in general.
Most recently, some additions were released to the original police report, stating that Zimmerman had suffered head trauma due to Martin repeatedly slamming his head into the sidewalk and punching him. George Zimmerman was reported to have been bloody, and his back was to have been covered in grass. Video of Zimmerman in the police station the night of February 26th recently made public shows no evidence of George Zimmerman having any manner of physical injury. Both the Sanford Police Chief and State Attorney Wolfinger have stepped aside in light of these recent developments.
Due to both the pubic outcry and the amount of questions looming into the validity of this investigation, Florida State Attorney Angela Corey is now charged with reviewing the case, and determining whether to prosecute George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin. She is expected to reach a decision in the coming weeks.