Trayvon Martin's killer never identified himself: police

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 26, 2012 5:24 PM

By Kevin Gray

MIAMI (Reuters) - George Zimmerman, the man charged in the killing of Trayvon Martin, failed on at least two opportunities to identify himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer before he shot the unarmed teenager, a police investigator wrote in a report made public on Tuesday.

Pages of the report were among a batch of new evidence released in the case by Florida's state attorney's office. The records included video and audio recordings of Zimmerman and written statements by him and police.

Zimmerman, 28, shot and killed Martin, 17, during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, on February 26. Martin was walking back from a store when Zimmerman called a 911 dispatcher and said the teen looked suspicious and then followed him.

Zimmerman is being held in a Florida jail charged with second-degree murder and faces 25 years to life if convicted. No trial date has been set yet.

In a report detailing the police investigation into the shooting, Sanford Police Detective Christopher Serino wrote that Zimmerman "had at least two opportunities to speak with Trayvon Benjamin Martin in order to defuse the circumstances surrounding their encounter."

Serino, the lead police investigator in the case, initially submitted a report to Sanford police officials and the state attorney's office saying there was sufficient probable cause to arrest Zimmerman and charge him with manslaughter.

But the decision was overruled when officials determined Zimmerman was protected under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which gives people who feel threatened broad latitude to use deadly force to defend themselves.

According to Zimmerman's statements about the incident, he followed Martin but then lost track of him and eventually got out his car, only to have the teenager reappear suddenly and punch him to the ground.

"While Zimmerman was returning to his vehicle, he states he was attacked by Martin," the report said. "But only after Martin inquires to Zimmerman 'What's your problem?' Zimmerman, instead of attempting to inform Martin of the reason he was following him, stated to Martin 'I don't have a problem.'"

"ULTIMATELY AVOIDABLE"

The report said Zimmerman had another opportunity to identify himself.

"As Zimmerman responds to Martin, by his own admission, Zimmerman reaches into his pocket attempting to locate his cell phone," it said. "As Zimmerman reaches for his cell phone, he stated Martin replies 'You have one now,' and Martin punches Zimmerman in the face, knocking him to the ground."

The report said the sequence of events was based on Zimmerman's account and could not be corroborated or refuted by independent witnesses.

Zimmerman has said in statements to police that he shot Martin because he feared for his life.

Serino wrote that the "physical injuries displayed by George Michael Zimmerman are marginally consistent with a life-threatening violent episode as described by him, during which neither a deadly weapon nor deadly force was deployed by Trayvon Martin."

The detective concludes that "the encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman."

The report said the shooting may not have occurred "if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement, or conversely if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialogue in an effort to dispel each party's concern."

Last week, lawyers for Zimmerman requested he be released from jail for a second time on bond.

Zimmerman was released on a $150,000 bond in April but ordered back into custody in June after a judge ruled he failed to hand over one of his two valid passports.

The judge said he also neglected to disclose the existence of some $135,000 in money raised on a website Zimmerman created to collect funds from anonymous donors for his legal defense.

Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, was later arrested and charged with perjury.

Lawyers for Zimmerman say the defense fund has since been turned over to an independent administrator and that Zimmerman no longer has any access to it.

(Reporting By Kevin Gray; Editing by Eric Walsh)