But the lead investigator, Chris Serino was told not to file charges against Zimmerman because the state attorney’s office decided there was not enough evidence to make the charges stick, according to the reports, including one by ABC News.
The reports added that, also contrary to widespread belief, police did not let Zimmerman leave the scene, according to his attorney. Instead, he was taken to the policed station and questioned on the night of the shooting, although he asked for medical attention first.
Zimmerman’s claim of self defense was accepted and he has not been charged, although Serino said in an affidavit the day of the shooting that he did not believe Zimmerman’s story that Trayvon attacked him and he fired in self-defense.
The State Attorney’s office declined to comment on the reports and it was not clear why these details were emerging a month after Trayvon was killed.
Gov. Rick Scott has announced that State Attorney Norman Wolfinger, had recused himself from the case. Scott appointed Angela B. Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, to replace him.
Meanwhile, National Action Network founder and president the Rev. Al Sharpton has this message for officials and residents of Sanford: “You are risking going down as the Birmingham and Selma of the 21st century.”
Operation PUSH founder and president the Rev. Jesse Jackson, also active in the rallies in Sanford, said Friday that Trayvon’s killing reflects “the classic struggle of our time” and said it echoes the slaying of Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was murdered in 1955 by a group of white men while visiting Mississippi. No one was ever convicted but Emmitt’s killing galvanized the civil rights movement.
Sharpton took an early lead in focusing widespread attention on Trayvon’s killing and the lack of prosecution of the killer. He has been visiting Sanford regularly to take part in rallies, including an appearance Monday night when he and several other national figures led a demonstration and then marched to a Sanford City Council meeting.
Sharpton told South Florida Times after that rally why he has been taking such an interest in the case, even attending a demonstration the day his mother died.
“We just know we’ve got to get this right, because we can’t send the message out that you can kill unarmed children and nothing happens to you,” Sharpton said.
Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, who divorced when he was 2, addressed the City Council meeting.
“If you have children, and if something happens to your children, you want to know what happened,” Fulton said.
Martin and Fulton also addressed leaked information regarding Trayvon’s reason for being in Sanford, including suspension from school for alleged possession drug paraphernalia.
“Even in death — and Trayvon is gone and not returning to us — they are still disrespecting my son, and that’s a shame,” Tracy Martin said.
“The only comment that I have right now is that they’ve killed my son, now they are trying to kill his
reputation,” Fulton tearfully added.
Trayvon was suspended three times from Dr. Michael M. Krop High School in North Miami since transferring to the school last August. In October, he was suspended for defacing a school locker and in February he was suspended for tardiness and truancy and then for having a bag with marijuana residue and a “marijuana pipe” in his possession.
A family friend who asked not to be identified also came to the
teen’s defense. “People are beginning to say that he stole things, that he was a thug,” said the friend, who rejected those allegations. She described Trayvon as an average kid who had grown up with a diverse set of friends and experiences.
Even though his parents divorced when he was a child, they both played active roles in his life. It was a close-knit family that provided him opportunities to travel, ski, go horseback riding and attend Broadway plays, the friend said.
“He had a love for skiing and snowboarding and he loved horseback-riding,” she said.
Although Trayvon had experienced different cultures, he did not understand the boundaries that some black youth take for granted, especially in small towns in the South, the friend said.
“He didn’t know anything about bigotry,” the family friend said. “He didn’t know to put the antenna up. I spoke to two friends who have kids up there. The kids know their place. It is embedded in their mind. They are aware that they can’t do this or they can’t do that. Trayvon was so used to living free, to having a wide path. It’s America.”
Martin and Fulton this week testified before a Congressional hearing on
Capitol Hill Tuesday examining racial profiling and hate crime and spoke about their son’s killing.
They have been leading what has become a national movement to have Zimmerman arrested and charged. Hundreds of thousands of petitions calling for his arrest have been signed. Protest marches that have attracted thousands are taking place in cities across the nation and several more are planned. Celebrities and prominent public officials, including President Barack Obama, have commented on the tragedy.
The president urged Americans to “do some soul searching” over the shooting. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” he said Friday. “I can only imagine what these parents are going through and, when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids,” Obama said at the White House.
Obama said Trayvon’s parents have a right to expect “that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
Monday night, nearly 400 students and staff from Trayvon’s high school were joined by Miami-Dade County School Board Member Martin Karp and Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho during a candlelight vigil in his memory — one of several rallies and marches at several schools in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The demand for justice has met with limited success. Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. has dismissed calls to fire Police Chief Bill Lee over his handling on the case, even though the City Council passed a no-confidence vote against Lee.
Bonaparte is insisting that he must await the findings of an independent investigation before taking action. A grand jury hearing is scheduled for April 10. Lee, however, has since voluntarily stepped down from office.
Also, The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights probe into the shooting and could bring a hate crime charge against Zimmerman if there is sufficient evidence the slaying was motivated by racial bias and not simply a fight that spiraled out of control, legal experts and former prosecutors say.
Zimmerman, whose father is white and his mother Hispanic, said to have gone into hiding but now some of his supporters have been coming forward. Joe Oliver, who described himself as a friend of the shooter, on Monday told ABC’s Good Morning America that Zimmerman is not a racist. “This is a guy who thought he was doing the right thing at the time and it’s turned out horribly wrong,” Oliver said.
This report was substantially supplemented with material from The Associated Press.
Photo: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
GRIEVING PARENTS: U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, left, greets Trayvon Martin’s mother, right, Sybrina Fulton on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday during a House Judiciary Committee briefing on racial profiling and hate crimes.