READING: Orlando Sentinel’s Police: Zimmerman says Trayvon decked him with one blow then began hammering his head

OUR TAKE:
The latest in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is that Sanford police leaked information in an attempt to show that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense, but witness testimony and 911 calls paint a conflicting story of events.

In the Orlando Sentinel article, police say that Zimmerman’s account is corroborated by eyewitness testimony. However, in the same article, the newspaper reports that “[p]olice have been reluctant to provide details about their evidence”, raising questions about how aligned eyewitness accounts actually are with Sanford Police Department’s account.

Many witnesses say that police failed to reach out to them, or attempted to sway witnesses to change testimony to fit the self-defense line.

Witnesses Mary Cutcher and Selma Mora Lamilla say that Zimmerman had Martin on the ground, with Zimmerman’s hand on the youth’s back. Cutcher believes that it was Martin who was screaming.

A 13-year-old eyewitness named Austin McLendon saw someone lying on the ground and heard the screams but could not tell who it was. His mother says that police tried to use the boy’s testimony to show that Zimmerman had been screaming, but that McLendon first said he did not know who was screaming. The teen now believes it was Martin who was crying for help, although it is not clear why he now believes this to be true.

Perhaps the most damning testimony comes from Martin’s girlfriend who was on the phone with Martin during his walk home. ABC News reports that the unnamed girlfriend could hear Zimmerman confront Martin, challenging the leaked report that Martin has aggressively confronted him.

The original lead investigator on the case, Chris Serino, “stated he was unconvinced Zimmerman’s version of events.” He was later removed from the case by Florida State Attorney Norman Wolfinger. Wolfinger has subsequently removed himself from the Martin case.

Without the release of an autopsy report, it is difficult to find the truth in this killing. We cannot tell from witness testimony who was lying on the ground. Zimmerman did have blood on his head and a busted lip which at the very least shows that Martin fought back. A neighbor’s 911 call captured the screams, but it is difficult to tell who is actually screaming, only that the yells cease after the shot rings.

According to WFTV, George Zimmerman would not be protected under the “Justifiable Use of Force ” law if police told him not to confront Martin and he decided to do so anyway. Zimmerman’s 911 call shows that the dispatcher told the shooter not to follow Martin, which Zimmerman acknowledges. Zimmerman claims he remained at his car but that Martin came from behind and confronted Zimmerman.

As the former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once said, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know.” Until we have the autopsy report, those unknowns will continue to leave an already angry public with many questions.

If the report shows that Zimmerman was not acting in self-defense, then the Sanford Police Department will need to answer to new questions of a potential cover-up and tampering with witness testimony. For a police department already plagued with problems of corruptions this will be just one more reason for state officials to dig deeper into the history of this department.

There will be no autopsy report until completion of the investigation. Until then, the public and news media can do little more than walk the dangerous line of speculation.

EXCERPT:

With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who eventually shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk, leaving him bloody and battered, law-enforcement authorities told the Orlando Sentinel.

That is the account Zimmerman gave police, and much of it has been corroborated by witnesses, authorities say. There have been no reports that a witness saw the initial punch Zimmerman told police about.

Read the rest at the Orlando Sentinel.