AFRICANGLOBE – Prosecutors released the latest cache of evidence in the George Zimmerman murder case on Tuesday, including new details of Zimmerman’s interest in law enforcement and testimony alleging racism and sexism in the Sanford Police Department.
Among the new documents were FBI reports, part of an ongoing civil-rights investigation into the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin, including interviews with Sanford police, Zimmerman’s neighbors and at least one coworker.
One witness, Sanford’s Senior Project Manager Andrew Thomas, described the police as a “‘good old boys’ network.”
“For example, female police officers at SPD would not take the Sergeants exams because they knew they would never get promoted,” an FBI report says. Thomas also said that he’d heard officers were known in recent years to refer to African-Americans by a racial slur in radio communications.
Contacted for comments on Tuesday, Thomas said that allegations came to light at a staff meeting a few years ago. He described them as “concerning” and “disturbing,” but said they were things that needed to be shared as “issues that were of concern to members of the [police] department.”
Now, “I think clearly it’s Sanford’s past,” Thomas said, adding that the department has been “very, very sensitive to what surfaced.”
Thomas and another witness described a stark divide between Sanford police and the Black community, in which African-Americans complained of treated differently and officers described the Black community as uncooperative.
Said the other witness, a lifelong resident of Sanford: “It is hard to be an African American male in Sanford and not have a criminal record.”
As in previously released FBI records, none of those interviewed said they’d known Zimmerman to behave in a racist manner.
The Sentinel obtained the records Tuesday from the office of Special Prosecutor Angela Corey through a public-record request. The names of those interviewed by the FBI were redacted from the documents, in accordance with a judge’s order.
Also in the latest evidence is digital copies of photos taken on the night of the murder, showing Zimmerman’s injuries. One witness in the documents is a former police officer who was a coworker of Zimmerman’s at the time of the shooting. Zimmerman was fascinated by the coworker’s law-enforcement experience, an FBI report shows, particularly a shooting years earlier.
The coworker told the FBI that he was working as a canine handler for a police agency when he shot a fleeing African-American suspect in the back in March 2008.
The former officer, who was 22 at the time of the shooting, said the suspect fired at him first. He said he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but “was too young to deal with the stress that came with the shooting so he resigned.”
Zimmerman, the witness said, “was interested in the fact that [the witness] was so young and involved in a shooting as a police officer. [Zimmerman] became interested in the facts of the case and would talk to [the witness] about the incident,” according to an FBI report.
One woman, who has a vacation home in the Retreat at Twin Lakes community where Zimmerman lives, told FBI agents she had interacted with Zimmerman in his role with the neighborhood watch. The witness, a Black woman, described Zimmerman as respectful and mild-mannered.
She said she emailed Zimmerman after the shooting, and he called “began telling her that what was being said about him was not true.” The witness later found an email in her junk file from Zimmerman, asking her “to give him some type of personal reference regarding his character.” The woman didn’t respond.
The FBI also interviewed Sanford police Investigator Doris Singleton and Sgt. Joseph Santiago about a file apparently found in Zimmerman’s cell phone. A message stored on the phone said “I have told you all everything that has transpired, do you really believe I would omit the fact that a narcotics officer guided me.”
It’s not clear who the message was intended for.
Santiago told agents that Singleton was the only narcotics officer working that night, but he thought she “did a great job during the interview and did not see how [Zimmerman] thought she guided him.”
Singleton described to the FBI her interview process, noting that she was told by a fellow officer before interviewing Zimmerman that the case “might be self-defense.”
Also in the new evidence is an FDLE interview with a friend of Zimmerman’s, who said he recruited Zimmerman to work security at private parties years ago. At one such party in 2005, the friend was attacked by at least three assailants, according to the interview.
According to the friend, Zimmerman lost his temper because he felt the police weren’t doing enough to apprehend the attackers. However, the friend said Zimmerman didn’t threaten or harm anyone.
The friend described Zimmerman as a peaceful, “fun loving guy.”
The latest round of evidence contains numerous FDLE reports, documenting the agency’s investigative efforts, including canvassing Zimmerman’s neighborhood and nearby businesses.
Multiple investigative avenues, such as collecting surveillance video from the community’s clubhouse and local businesses, resulted nothing of evidentiary value, the reports show.
Prosecutors allege Zimmerman profiled and pursued Trayvon. Zimmerman says he fired in self defense after the Miami Gardens teen attacked him.