CAUTION: CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE
It’s a sad state of affairs when an innocent person’s death is ostracized to the point that it creates a huge rift; enormous enough to cut through the very fabric of race, politics and social mores. But it’s precisely what happened in the case of Trayvon Martin, the teenager whose life was cut short by a 9mm bullet fired from George Zimmerman’s gun in Sanford, Florida, a short distance away from where I live. Who was to blame?
Because of a profound difference between people of various ethnicities, religions and political affiliations, the facts don’t always come out as they should. Initially, I thought the shooting was racially motivated, for instance, but later, I didn’t feel it was any more than just some kind of profiling. That didn’t necessarily mean without due deliberation. In other words, strangers are always up to no good, right? Wrong, but George Zimmerman assumed that Trayvon Martin was as soon as he saw him. From the start of the 9-1-1 call to the Sanford Police Department, Zimmerman made it clear that he was profiling Martin:
[The bold emphasis in the quotations is mine]
Dispatcher: Sanford Police Department
Zimmerman: Hey we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy, uh, [at] Retreat View Circle, um, the best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something.
If that’s not profiling, I don’t know what is, but do I believe it stooped to the level of racial profiling? At first, I did, but today I don’t. Not really. What threw me off was that the Sanford police were so quick to release Zimmerman after the shooting, under the auspices of the ‘stand your ground’ law in Florida. I have serious doubts, though, about whether Martin would have been able to walk away had the shooting been the other way around. Believe me, I’ve lived around these here parts long enough to remember seeing the remnants of separate water fountains for blacks and trees that were once used for hanging.
As for Zimmerman’s incessant phone calls to police to report suspicious activity over the course of eight years, he only mentioned the person’s race when prompted. This is from the February 26 call:
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy is he white, black, or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.
Since August of 2011, he called the police a total of seven times, and again, only mentioned his suspect’s race after being asked. That’s not racism, but you may wonder why I wrote his in italics. It’s because I feel strongly that Zimmerman is a loose screw with very distorted views based on his own innate paranoia — his irrational distrust of others. Does that make him crazy? No, but I would rather a guy like him live far, far away from my neighborhood because he’s the type who would end up doing precisely what he ended up doing.
Everyone who knows me understands I am not a gun enthusiast. I have never owned any kind of weapon like a gun and I never will. However, I do believe in everyone’s right to bear arms. I just don’t agree that everyone is sane enough to bear one, let alone walk around with it on their person. I do believe that most people with concealed license permits are not of the same mold as Zimmerman, and from what I’ve learned, most are at odds with a vigilante like him. He made roughly 47 phone calls (9-1-1 and non-emergency) to police since August of 2004, and 9 since August of 2011. In order to put this into a proper perspective, think about how many times you’ve called the police in since 2004. How about just since August of last year? Yup, that’s what I thought, so you would agree that it’s an exorbitant number and quite abnormal, given the circumstances of where he lived and traveled throughout his neighborhood. Sure, I’m considering his self-appointed title as captain of the Neighborhood Watch program, but for crying out loud, the guy called police when someone left their garage door open.
As for Sanford’s problem today, most of it stems from sweeping the incident under the proverbial rug, and for that, I don’t blame civil rights leaders for lighting the fuse of the firestorm that is now burning. Had I not known any better, I’d probably be thinking the same way a lot of people are looking at this mess:
Black boy shot dead by white dude. White dude claims self defense. Police look at scene while eating donuts and agree with dude. Case closed. Clean up the mess.
Certainly, that’s not really the case, but it’s easy to think so since this country, the south in particular, is rich with examples of this kind of thing, where the good ol’ boy system of cronyism is the way local governments have been run for generations. Because of this, I agree that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were right in taking up this cause, although they do have a way of adding fuel to burning embers. But I also know from past experiences that without their help, there’s a very good chance that Trayvon’s story would still be tucked away and forgotten. The bottom line is, and I heard Sharpton say this with my own ears, that all they seek is the truth. Each of us should be asking for that instead of splintering into social, racial and political divides. To seek the truth is what everyone deserves, and that means justice for George Zimmerman, too.
So far, what do we know that is factual? There’s so much distortion out there and I’ll be the first one to openly admit I was part of it — initially, anyway. Zimmerman’s gun, for example, has no safety and a bullet enters the chamber when the clip is placed inside the grip. I was wrong about that.
There’s also a real problem over Zimmerman’s ethnicity. Is he white or Hispanic? I will stand by the initial police report. Whether Zimmerman was asked or not is not known, but Zimmerman doesn’t sound Hispanic to me. (For the record, his mother is Peruvian.)
During the 9-1-1 call on February 26, Zimmerman contradicted himself. He told the dispatcher that Martin was coming toward him and moments later he said the exact opposite. You can listen to his voice and hear the wind to show that he was running after his suspect. Again, I am emphasizing the quotations in bold:
Zimmerman: Something’s wrong with him. Yup, he’s coming to check me out. He’s got something in his hands. I don’t know what his deal is.
Dispatcher: Just let me know if he does anything ok
Zimmerman: How long until you get an officer over here?
Dispatcher: Yeah we’ve got someone on the way, just let me know if this guy does anything else.
Zimmerman: Okay. These assholes they always get away [more profiling?]. When you come to the clubhouse you come straight in and make a left. Actually 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 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 other entrance to the neighborhood.
Dispatcher: Which entrance is that that he’s heading towards?
Zimmerman: The back entrance…fucking [unintelligible]
Dispatcher: Are you following him?
Dispatcher: Ok, we don’t need you to do that.
Let’s try to examine the actual timeline by breaking it down:
7:04 PM: Trayvon receives phone call from his girlfriend.
7:08 PM: Trayvon’s phone call with girlfriend ends.
7:09 PM: Zimmerman spots Trayvon while sitting in his truck and calls non-emergency number. Log records show incoming call received at 7:09:34 PM.
7:10:35 PM: Zimmerman tells dispatcher Martin is coming toward him.
7:11:48 PM: Dispatcher asks which way Martin is running.
7:12 PM: Trayvon’s girlfriend calls back.
7:13 PM: Zimmerman says his truck is parked at cut-through. 15 seconds later, he loses sight of Trayvon.
7:13:41 PM: Zimmerman ends call to dispatcher.
Meanwhile, Trayvon is still on the phone with his girlfriend.
7:15 - 7:16 PM: Trayvon’s tells girlfriend he thinks he lost the guy. She then hears voices:
Trayvon: Why are you following me?
Zimmerman: What are you doing here?”
Phone cuts out at 7:16 (approximate.) Girlfriend says it sounded like the phone was dropped.
7:16:11 PM: First of seven 9-1-1 calls comes in. A high-pitched male voice is heard screaming for help.
7:16:56 PM: GUNSHOT IS HEARD.
According to the initial police report, officers Ricardo Ayala and Timothy Smith arrive on the scene at 7:17 PM, a mere seconds after the fatal shot.
There are two flaws in Zimmerman’s story, the way I see things. The timeline doesn’t add up according to his account. If Trayvon is on the phone with his girlfriend and loses the connection at 7:16, with the fatal shot coming approximately one minute later, how could Trayvon have sneaked up behind Zimmerman when the two exchanged those questions overheard on the phone? Follow me on this, please:
Trayvon: Why are you following me?
Zimmerman: What are you doing here?
Phone goes dead
This all takes place in less than or equal to one minute - hardly enough time for Trayvon to mount a “from behind” sneak attack, as Zimmerman says he was returning to his truck, but there’s more to it than that.
The second aspect of Zimmerman’s account of a sneak attack doesn’t make sense to me, either. Study the map:
The yellow line signifies the path Trayvon took on his way back from 7-Eleven to his father’s fiancée’s house. This was the correct path. Zimmerman’s path is in orange. He could have followed Trayvon or he could have taken the other path and swung around to face him north as Trayvon headed south along the sidewalk. Either way, I don’t see how Trayvon could have caught Zimmerman off guard. This is a major issue as far as I’m concerned, and in my opinion it adds up to an alibi that doesn’t compute.
The bottom line is that I’m more concerned with what really transpired than I am about anything else. Who is black and who is white shouldn’t matter, but it does, and both extremes are expanding the rift. No doubt, it’s a terrible shame when we break down a human life and crumble it like bleu cheese over potholes marked by liberal and conservative values, Republican and Democratic doctrines, and most shocking, what a young man’s life is worth depending on where one sits. This cannot be marred by the loud marches of vengeance seekers. There can be no coerced contrition based on speculation. While we argue over justice, we can’t lose sight of the truth.
Trayvon Martin is dead. Had he been left alone that Sunday evening, which he should have been, he would have delivered a bag of Skittles to his soon-to-be step-brother and life would have continued as usual; uninterrupted. Instead, a man with a gun had to stick his nose into something that was police business, and for that reason alone, if nothing more, he should be held accountable. Without that gun, George Zimmerman would have been too afraid to chase after a fluffy little bunny rabbit and Trayvon would be spending Easter with his family. Instead, we’re left with fighting over a word: coon, cold, or punk. Sadly, the battle lines are drawn, and it’s Slimm v. Zimm. Which side are you rooting for?