An attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin, the teenager shot who was murdered last month by a neighborhood watch vigilante in an Orlando, Fla., suburb, said police withheld the shooter’s violent past from the slain youth’s family.
Police initially told Martin’s family that George Zimmerman, 28, admitted to shooting Martin, 17, on Feb. 26, after he called 911 and reported a suspicious person, said the attorney, Benjamin Crump. Zimmerman said the shooting was in self-defense, police said.
Zimmerman, who is White, has not been charged in the death of Martin, who was Black. Police in Sanford, where the shooting occurred, told Martin’s family that Zimmerman had a “squeaky-clean” record and that’s why they had not arrested him, according to Tracy Martin, the teen’s father.
Crump said public records show that Zimmerman was arrested in Orange County in 2005 on charges of resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer.
“They just lied to the family,” Crump said. “They just couldn’t see why [Zimmerman] would do anything wrong or be violent. But not only do you know the guy killed this child, because he admitted to it, you knew that he has a propensity for violence because of his past record.”
The Orange County Clerk of Courts website shows a man named George Zimmerman, 28, was charged in July 2005 with resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer. The charges appear to have been dropped.
An email to Sanford Chief Bill Lee was not immediately returned on Friday evening. A phone number for Zimmerman has been disconnected. He could not be reached for comment.
In an interview on Thursday, Tracy Martin said that when he asked police why Zimmerman hadn’t been charged, officers told him “they respected [Zimmerman’s] background, that he studied criminal justice for four years and that he was squeaky clean.” He continued: “My question to them was, did they run my child’s background check? They said yes. I asked them what they came up with, and they said nothing. So I asked if Zimmerman had a clean record, did that give him the right to shoot and kill an unarmed kid?”
Crump has asked law enforcement officials to turn over the 911 tapes recorded the night Martin was killed. He has since filed a public records lawsuit to get the recordings.
The teenager was on his way back from a convenience store during halftime of the NBA All-Star game when Zimmerman began following him in his car, police said.
Chief Lee on Thursday said that Zimmerman called 911 and reported a suspicious person. “For some reason he felt that Trayvon, the way that he was walking or appeared, seemed suspicious to him,” Lee said. “He called this in and at one part of this initial call [the dispatcher] recommends him not to follow Trayvon. A police officer is on the way at that point.”
Lee said Zimmerman instead followed Martin. He confronted Trayvon Martin and soon after he shot the teen, the chief said.