[Update, 7/5/13: For updated material concerning the ongoing trial of George Zimmerman, please see more recent posts concerning the undisputed facts at the conclusion of the prosecution's case, the significance of Selene Bahadoor's testimony, and Zimmerman's inability to explain how he fell backwards but ended up 40 feet forward.]
[Update, 4/15/12: For an analysis of the criminal laws implicated by this case, please see my follow-up post on the specific criminal charges brought against George Zimmerman, and his available statutory defenses.]
[Update, 4/29/12: Having finally looked at a longer copy of the phone records for Trayvon Martin's phone, I've revised portions of the timeline to reflect the new information contained there. However, I now believe that the T-Mobile call logs are hopelessly unreliable for giving call times with any accuracy more than + 59 seconds. I did some rough experiments with my own phone, since my cell plan is also through T-Mobile, and it appears to me that the recorded times on T-Mobile statements are not at all exact, and can be as much as 59 seconds off from the actual time at which a call was made. Calls were wrongly recorded both as occurring later and sooner than from when they were actually made, so the error isn't due to T-Mobile's clock being fast or slow -- the times are just off.]
[Update, 5/28/12: Lot of new information has been released while I was out of town. Working now on going through it all and updating the timeline with the information obtained from the new docs.]
[Update, 7/20/12: This timeline of events has been superseded by the release of a great deal of discovery that was unavailable at the time that it was constructed. The time stamps on the various phone calls still stand, obviously, but some of the interpretations of that data have to be changed in light of the additional evidence.]
I wanted to write a more in depth post the death of Trayvon Martin and the possible criminal charges arising from it, but when trying to figure out how strong Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense might be, I got frustrated by the lack of any in-depth, detailed time lines of the events leading up to and immediately following Trayvon’s death. In order to get a better idea of what exactly happened, I’ve laid out here a chronology of the shooting based on (1) call logs of the calls to 911 and the police made that night; (2) recordings of the calls themselves; and (3) the police report and surveillance video that have been made available to the public.
The records show that less than ten minutes passed from Zimmerman’s first sighting of Trayvon, to Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon as they wrestled in a neighborhood walkway between houses. Where possible, I’ve included the times of events down to the second, but some events and phone calls were only recorded by the minute, making some guess work necessary.
To start with, I’ve put together a quick diagram of some of the relevant locations that are referenced in the post. (Thanks for the image, Xie!)
- Call Log for Zimmerman’s Calls to Police Dispatch
- Released Police Report & Other Evidence
- State’s Motion for Protective Order (5/24/2012)
- Crimes scene photos and photos of subjects released by police
Timeline of Events
6:22:08pm: Surveillance footage of the 7-Eleven near the Retreat View neighborhood shows Trayvon entering the store.
6:24:33pm: Trayvon buys a canned drink and a bag of candy, and departs the store. The clerk puts it in a brown plastic bag. That bag will later be found strewn near where Trayvon is shot.
6:54pm: Trayvon makes a call to “DeeDee,” a minor female that has been reported as his girlfriend. He is using a headset, walking home on his way back from the store after grabbing a snack and a drink, and he has been on the phone with DeeDee since he left there. According to DeeDee, it begins to rain, and he takes shelter at one of the buildings in the townhouse complex, while the two continue to chat. The referenced building is possibly the awning marked in purple on the above image.
7:04pm: An unknown individual makes a call to Trayvon while Trayvon is still talking to DeeDee. Unlike both Trayvon and DeeDee, this individual is not using a phone on a T-Mobile phone plan. Trayvon apparently puts DeeDee on hold, and then answers the new call in order to speak briefly to the new caller. This conversation lasts anywhere between 1 second and 59 seconds. After, Trayvon switches his call back to DeeDee. This phone call between DeeDee and Trayvon is recorded as having a duration of 18 minutes — which means from connection to termination, it was somewhere between 17 min, 0 seconds and 17 min, 59 seconds. Although the T-Mobile call times are imprecise, it would appear the call is disconnected at around 7:12pm.
7:09:34 pm: Zimmerman, in his truck, spots Trayvon. He calls the non-emergency dispatch number for the police, and the call log records his call as connecting with dispatch at 7:09:34pm. [Note: Relevant log begins on page 46.] He reports a suspicious black male in neighborhood. An recording of Zimmerman’s police call can be found here. Zimmerman states “The best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle.” Zimmerman meant to say 1111 Retreat View Circle. It appears that Trayvon is around the clubhouse when Zimmerman’s call to police begins, at the intersection of Retreat View and Twin Trees. This is consistent with DeeDee’s claims that Trayvon was hanging out under a complex building to take shelter from the rain.
7:10:16pm: Forty-five seconds after the phone call begins, Zimmerman reports that Trayvon is “here now,” indicating possibly that Trayvon was moving while Zimmerman was not. It’s possible Zimmerman’s car was parked at all times during his phone call to the police.
- Zimmerman: “He’s here now … he’s just staring.”
7:10:20pm: Zimmerman’s phone call to police indicates that at this time, Trayvon becomes aware of the fact that Zimmerman is watching him. The two stare at one another, and Trayvon keeps walking.
- Zimmerman: “Now he’s staring at me.”
7:10:22 – 7:10:35 pm:
- Dispatch: “OK, you said that’s 1111 Retreat View or 111?”
- Zimmerman: “That’s the clubhouse.”
- Dispatch: “He’s near the clubhouse now?”
- Zimmerman: “Yeah, now he’s coming toward me. He’s got his hands in his waist band.”
It seems almost certain that Zimmerman was on Twin Trees Ln. at this point, since Trayvon’s path started at the clubhouse at the intersection of Retreat View and Twin Trees, and was heading towards the cut-through (circled in blue, above). It seems plausible that Zimmerman has been sitting in his parked truck, somewhere at the area marked in green in the image below, for the entire first half of his call to police. While watching from his truck, he sees Trayvon leaving the awning (marked in purple) and walking towards the cut-through, which means Trayvon’s path would’ve gone right past the car. Trayvon apparently noticed Zimmerman as he approaches, and keeps on walking.
This possible scenario, however, doesn’t completely fit with the timing from the call with DeeDee, which seems to indicate that Trayvon felt that he was being followed by someone at a time that would seem to be before Zimmerman exits the car — implying that Zimmerman may have been slowly following Trayvon while driving. My guess, though, is that the time stamps for T-Mobile’s call records and for the 911 logs are slightly off from one another, which explains any discrepancy between the two time lines.
7:11:14 pm: At this point, Trayvon appears to have walked past Zimmerman truck, possibly heading towards the cut through, where he would shortly be out of sight of Zimmerman.
- Zimmerman: “These assholes. They always get away. … When you come to the clubhouse, you come straight in and you go left. Actually, you would go past the clubhouse.”
- Dispatcher: “OK, so it’s on the left hand side of the clubhouse?”
- Zimmerman: “Yeah. You go in straight through the entrance and then you would go left. You go straight in, don’t turn and make a left.
7:11:42 – 7:11:48pm: There is the sound of a car door opening at this point, immediately after Zimmerman says “he’s running,” and Zimmerman starts huffing; wind noises can be heard, and Zimmerman sounds slightly breathless. Zimmerman is able to see Trayvon plainly enough at this point to determine his direction, and believes he is going for the back entrance:
- Zimmerman: ”Shit, he’s running.”
- Dispatcher: ”He’s running? Which way is he running?”
- Zimmerman: ”Down toward the other [back] entrance of the neighborhood.”
The house where Trayvon is staying is directly between Trayvon’s approximate location at this time and the back entrance to the complex; Trayvon is probably actually running for his house. However, because both the house and the back entrance are to the southeast corner, there are two possible routes that Zimmerman could have seen Trayvon take off towards: (1) Trayvon stays on Twin Trees Ln., bolting south down the road; or (2) Trayvon runs for the cut-through, heading east, so that he can then turn and head south either on Retreat View or through the sidewalk between the rows of houses. Because Zimmerman’s reaction to Trayvon running is to get out of his car, it seems that scenario 2 is more likely — Zimmerman can’t follow in his car, he has to go on foot.
Approx. 7:12pm [+ or - 59 seconds off of 7:12pm, from the time as recorded by Zimmerman's call to police. Exact time unknown]: The original phone call that Trayvon made to Dee, which lasted 18 minutes, is disconnected. Almost immediately after that phone call ends, DeeDee calls Trayvon back. He answers, and DeeDee reports that he says to her, “I think this dude is following me.” She says that she tells him “Run!” and that Trayvon responded that he’s not going to run, he’s just going to walk fast.
The timing is close enough to suggest, but not perfect enough to say for sure, that when Zimmerman reports that “[Trayvon's] running,” it’s at the same time as when DeeDee advised him to do just that. If so, it’s possible Trayvon was not telling the complete truth when he told her was just going to “walk fast,” perhaps to seem braver, but in reality had started running. Alternatively, Trayvon really did only start to “walk fast,” but Zimmerman, clearly worried about yet another asshole getting away, interprets this as “running” in his call to dispatch.
7:12:08 pm: After conversation about Zimmerman’s contact details, Zimmerman states to the dispatcher, “he ran.” From the general context, it seems that Zimmerman has now lost sight of Trayvon. The running/wind noises on the recording also cease abruptly at this point, and Zimmerman’s voice evens out. If this is the case, then Zimmerman has stopped his on-foot, running pursuit of Trayvon approximately 20 seconds after he began.
- Dispatcher: “Alright, where are you going to meet with [police] at?”
- Zimmerman: “Um, if they come in through the gate, tell them to go straight past the clubhouse and, uh, straight past the clubhouse and make a left and then go past the mailboxes you’ll see my truck.”
I’m unclear where the mailboxes Zimmerman refers to are, but it appears from Google street view that they could be in the awning that Trayvon’s girlfriend says he took shelter in from the rain. If so, however, it’s hard to understand why police would “make a left and then go past the mailboxes.” But it makes more sense than anything else I can find, so it’s possible Zimmerman just misspoke again.
7:12:59: Zimmerman states that his truck is parked at “a cut-through” so he doesn’t know the address. The cut-through is the blue-circled area in the image, so Zimmerman’s truck is presumably in the vicinity of the green circled area. It may have been parked here from the very beginning of his call to police.
7:13:14pm: Zimmerman has lost Trayvon. He doesn’t want to say his address out loud because “I don’t know where this kid is.” Nine seconds later, Zimmerman tells dispatcher to have police call him when they arrive rather than meet at specific place, indicating that Zimmerman plans to keep moving, and doesn’t know where exactly he’ll be when police arrive.
7:13:41pm: Zimmerman’s phone call with dispatch ends.
7:14pm: There is approximately a one minute, thirty second period for which we have very little information about what occurred, from around 17:14:00 until 17:15:30. Zimmerman apparently keeps searching for Trayvon during this time period, and phone records show that Trayvon is still on the phone with DeeDee. Also during this period of time, neither party moves particularly far from their estimated locations at 7:13:00pm; it appears that they were either (1) walking extremely slowly, (2) had stopped somewhere before resuming movement, or (3) were taking non-direct paths. It’s possible that Trayvon, like Zimmerman when he refused to give his house number out, was worried about the stalker following him home and figuring out where he lived, so Trayvon did not run straight back, instead feinting one way before looping back around. Another possibility is that Trayvon, thinking he’d lost Zimmerman, was dawdling on his walk back home in order to finish his phone call with DeeDee — possibly because Trayvon, like most 17 year olds, generally prefers to have his phone calls with his significant other out of ear shot of his parents. The other two possibilities are that (1) Trayvon bolted on a pathway in the wrong direction from his house, in order to escape Zimmerman, after Trayvon initially started running/walked fast; he was then making his way back to his correct route when he encountered Zimmerman again; or (2) Trayvon, still on the phone with DeeDee, had in fact managed to start running on a direct path towards home, but decides to loop back to find Zimmerman again, in order to start a fight with the guy who dared to follow him.
Some small, extremely circumstantial evidence to suggest why Zimmerman may have been expecting Trayvon to run out the back entrance, and why Zimmerman may have tried to cut Trayvon off from going in that direction, comes from the police call logs. We know from Zimmerman’s previous calls to police that he had on at least two prior occasions called in to report that suspicious black males were hanging around the “back entrance” of the housing complex. (See pgs. 39-40 of the police dispatch logs.) On both those occasions, as with the call he made about Trayvon, Zimmerman stated that he believed the person he was watching had committed recent break ins in the neighborhood. On the two prior occasions, Zimmerman reported that the suspicious persons were at or headings towards the back entrance, and on one occasion, Zimmerman advised dispatch that the “subjects will run into the subdivision next to this complex,” and advised that law enforcement enter through the back entrance to meet him. It seems possible that if Zimmerman was going to follow Trayvon and lost him, his assumption would be Trayvon would be heading in that direction.
Approx. 7:15:30 – 7:15:45pm: Zimmerman and Trayvon encounter each other for the final time, in the area circled in red in the diagram above. At this point, all evidence from eye witnesses and police reports indicates that a fight between the two began and ended there, and that the parties did not substantially change position during the course of the struggle. Reports on the exact location of Trayvon’s body have varied, but it has been established it was somewhere in the grass in the row between the houses, closer to the north side than the south..
There are a half dozen different versions of how the altercation between Zimmerman and Trayvon occurred and what happened during the course of it.
7:15 – 7:16pm, DeeDee’s version of events: Trayvon tells DeeDee that he thinks he has lost the dude that was following him. DeeDee then hears voices, as if Trayvon and his pursuer have run into each other again. She says something like the following exchanged occurred between the two individuals:
- Trayvon: “Why are you following me?”
- Zimmerman: “What are you doing here?”
At that point, it sounds to DeeDee as if one party shoves the other. DeeDee thinks she hears Trayvon’s headset fall off, and the phone call cuts out at approximately 7:16pm, four minutes after it starts. It is my suspicion that the T-Mobile records are about 30 seconds slower than the time kept by the police dispatch’s clock– which would mean that the phone call started at 7:11:30, and ended at 7:15:30, a timeline that would mean that DeeDee’s description of events pretty much precisely matches up with the times as recorded by various 911 and police calls, down to the second. If her phone call with Trayvon instead ended at 7:16 on the police department’s clock, then the first 911 call from a neighbor came in 11 seconds or less after the fight initially started — that doesn’t seems plausible.
7:15 – 7:16pm, Zimmerman’s version of events: Zimmerman has not given an “official” version of his story, and the versions that have been reported by other sources are somewhat inconsistent, with some of the versions being extremely implausible. One initial report alleges that the confrontation began while Zimmerman was still in his truck, and that Trayvon approached the parked truck to ask Zimmerman why he was following him. Zimmerman “rolled down his window” to say he wasn’t, and Trayvon left, only for the fight to later occur on the cut through. This story has not been repeated since, and if Zimmerman really did initially give this version of events, he’s not sticking with it any longer.
The most consistent report that is alleged to be Zimmerman’s version of the encounter provides roughly the following: Zimmerman had gotten out of his car to check on an address, to tell police where to go. [This itself makes little sense -- Zimmerman's car was in front of the houses, where house addresses are visible and displayed, whereas behind the houses there are only porches and no visible addresses.] Zimmerman was then “returning to his truck,” [although still 150 ft. away, if his truck is in fact parked in the green circled area] but Trayvon approached Zimmerman from behind and confronted him. Either Trayvon (somehow) reaches around from behind to sucker punch Zimmerman in the nose, or else the two have a verbal confrontation and turn to face each other before the first punch is thrown. Zimmerman falls to the ground, and Trayvon jumps on him, punching Zimmerman and slamming his head into concrete. Zimmerman eventually is able to pull his handgun free from its holster and fires once at Trayvon, who is pinning him down. Trayvon is hit in the chest and dies.
7:15 – 7:16pm, Trayvon’s father’s recounting of how police described Zimmerman’s initial report to them:
- Trayvon: appears from behind a building, approaches Zimmerman, and says, “What’s your problem, homie?”
- Zimmerman: “I don’t have a problem.”
- Trayvon: “You do now.” He then punches Zimmerman, knocking him to the ground, pinning him down.
- Trayvon: tells Zimmerman, “Shut the fuck up.”
- Zimmerman: while being beaten by Trayvon, pulls his gun and fires one shot at close range into Trayvon’s chest.
- Trayvon: “You got me.” Falls over, dead.
7:15 – 7:16pm, Zimmerman’s father’s version of events: Zimmerman is walking along the sidewalk (area circled in red?) in order to “find an address.”
- Trayvon: walks up to Zimmerman, says, “Do you have a fucking problem?”
- Zimmerman: “No, I don’t have a problem.” Zimmerman starts to reach for his cell phone to call police, but Trayvon punches him in the nose. Zimmerman’s nose is broken and he is knocked to the concrete.
- Trayvon: gets on top of Zimmerman and punches him repeatedly. While punching Zimmerman on the ground below him, Trayvon sees Zimmerman’s gun.
- Trayvon: “You’re going to die tonight.”
- Zimmerman: draws his pistol while on the ground, and shoots Trayvon once in the chest.
7:15 – 7:16pm, Zimmerman’s brother’s version of events: Zimmerman’s brother states that Zimmerman was not patrolling the neighborhood; rather, he was driving to Target when he noticed a suspicious looking person in his gated community, and called the police to report it. Zimmerman’s brother alleges that Zimmerman stopped following Trayvon when the police dispatcher told him to. Zimmerman then then lost sight of Trayvon, and about a minute later, the following occurs:
- Trayvon: sneaks up on Zimmerman.
- Zimmerman: tries to grab his phone to call 911 and intends to say to police “Well, this person who I lost sight of and was not pursuing has now confronted me.” Zimmerman is unable to complete this call because Trayvon broke his nose with a punch, and began slamming Zimmerman’s head into the sidewalk.
- Trayvon: sees Zimmerman’s gun and tries to grab it.
- Trayvon: says to Zimmerman either (1) “You die tonight,” or possibly (2) “You have a piece, you die tonight.”
- Zimmerman: screams for help, but then grabs gun and shoots Trayvon when Trayvon tries to muscle it away.
Zimmerman’s brother adds in that there is a witness that saw what happened, “from the first blow.” The brother does not explain why this witness did not help Zimmerman, who he is, or why he was around to see the fight in the first place.
7:15 – 7:16pm, version of events attributed to “Zimmerman’s parents”: An unidentified female neighbor and friend reports that Zimmerman’s parents are strongly maintaining that the shooting was in self-defense: “What [Zimmerman's parents] told us is that he was reaching for his cell phone and Trayvon Martin saw his gun and reached for the gun and there was a struggle.” This story is somewhat reminiscent of Zimmerman’s brother’s story, regarding Zimmerman going for a phone, which ignited the physical struggle.
7:15 – 7:16pm, unidentified law enforcement official’s version of events: The Daily Beast quotes an unidentified individual with the Sanford Police Department who is not involved in the case but apparently had some exposure to the investigation. According to him, Zimmerman’s statement to police was that after losing track of Trayvon, Zimmerman “went around a townhouse to see where he was.” This supports two things: first, that Zimmerman was actively hunting for Trayvon at the time of the altercation, and second, that Zimmerman was not following the sidewalk routes, but ducking through gaps in houses. This is possible support for the theory that Zimmerman unexpectedly cut off Trayvon, who was on the sidewalk routes. It also puts the “Trayvon was in hiding waiting to attack Zimmerman” theory in doubt, because it’s not clear how Trayvon’s could have anticipated Zimmerman’s unusual path.
The law enforcement official also reports that Zimmerman’s story is that Martin confronted him, and then knocked him to the ground with a punch. Zimmerman then said that “when he was on the ground, Martin straddled him, striking him, and then tried to smother him.” This ‘smothering’ claim is a new detail that has not been repeated before, and it’s somewhat confusing. If Trayvon was in fact on top of Zimmerman, perhaps Zimmerman interpreted the weight on his chest as an attempt to “smother” him, but the idea that any attacker in Trayvon’s situation would try and use “smothering” as an attack does not make much sense. The law enforcement official’s report goes on to state that:
Zimmerman claimed that he yelled for help, and that various neighbors who peered out to see the fight from their backyards didn’t get involved. Zimmerman… told officers he was so paralyzed by fear that he initially forgot he had a gun, but he said that after Martin noticed his 9mm pistol, Zimmerman pulled it out of his belt holder and fired one round, a hollow-point—the round that killed Martin.
Zimmerman also told police that, after being shot, Trayvon’s last words were “Okay, you got it, okay, you got it,” and then Trayvon turned and fell face-down on the ground. Although these words sounds similar to what Trayvon’s dad were told his last words were — i.e., “you got me” — even assuming Zimmerman is telling the truth as he knows it, my assumption is that he misheard Trayvon. Someone seconds from death from a hollow point bullet wound to the chest is not going to be enunciating clearly or making dramatic statements. The more likely scenario is that Trayvon said something like “you shot me… you shot me,” in disbelief and shock.
Finally, the last new information from the Daily Beast’s source is that “Zimmerman told police he didn’t realize that Martin was seriously injured, and that he lunged to get on top of him after the teenager fell to the ground.” This would seem to match one of the 911 caller’s statements to the 911 dispatcher which, although confused, reported seeing Zimmerman on top of Trayvon after the shooting. Although it should have been obvious that a point blank shot to the chest with a hollow point bullet is going to be a serious wound all of the time and a fatal wound most of the time, it is believable that, with the adrenaline pumping, Zimmerman wasn’t thinking clearly. However, this is also another indication that Zimmerman’s subjective interpretation of events should be treated with cautious skepticism — Zimmerman was plainly not thinking completely logically or coherently, if he thought the bullet to the chest was not a “serious injury.” The fact Zimmerman thought it necessary to try and restrain Trayvon and “lunge to get on top of him” after shooting the kid in the chest shows Zimmerman’s threat detection systems were on overload,.
7:16:11 pm: The first of six 911 calls is made by a neighbor whose house is immediately adjacent to where the shooting occurred. A high pitched, desperate male voice can be heard yelling “help” repeatedly, from the very beginning of the phone call, and continues on for some time — there are occasional pauses, and occasional nonsensical yells, but for the most part the voice is consistently yelling “help” “help” “help” over and over again.
7:16:56 pm: Forty-five seconds into the first 911 call, a gunshot is heard. The last cry of “hel-” seems to be cut off simultaneously with the shot. Assuming that the first 911 caller took at least 15 seconds to hear sounds of fighting, recognize what it was, and pull out a phone to make a 911 call, this means that the physical struggle between Zimmerman and Trayvon went on for a minimum of one minute. The first 911 caller was still quick on the draw, however, and is unlikely to have taken more than 30 seconds to make the call. This gives a maximum fight duration of perhaps a minute and a half. Estimate time of the fight’s beginning is therefore 7:15:35 – 7:15:55pm.
7:17:55 pm (estimated): By around 17:17:55 – 17:18:07pm, several 911 callers report seeing a “man with a flashlight” outside, followed by a second flash light approximately one minute, fifteen seconds later. These are almost certainly Officers Smith and Ayala, who were first on the scene.
Officer Smith, the first officer to arrive, parks his car at 2821 Retreat View Circle. Officer Smith has been dispatched to respond to police calls made by Zimmerman twice before in recent weeks, once on January 29, 2012, and once again on February 6, 2012. He likely has encountered and spoken to Zimmerman before, although this has not been officially confirmed. Per the police report of the incident, when he arrives on scene on the night of February 26, a few seconds before 7:18pm, he cuts through the houses on the Retreat View side of the walkway, and into the area circled in red. He sees Zimmerman walking around and Trayvon lying “face down in the grass.” Zimmerman states to Smith that he shot the individual on the ground, and that he was still armed. Smith immediately moves to remove the gun, and observes that Zimmerman has a wet back and appears to be covered in grass, “as if he had been laying on his back on the ground.” He observes blood on the back of Zimmerman’s head, and on his nose. He removes from Zimmerman’s “waist band” the handgun and holster — it is not clear if the handgun is in the holster, or if both the holster and handgun are tucked into the waistband. He puts Zimmerman in the back of his squad car.
Officer Ayala arrives about a minute after Officer Smith, and observes Trayvon laying face down. His police report indicates that he observed that Trayvon “had his hands underneath his body.” Ayala begins emergency response treatment, but Trayvon never becomes responsive. He will be pronounced dead 11 minutes later.
The later-released police reports state that when Officers Raimondo and Ayala approached Trayvon’s body to attempt first aid, Trayvon “was lying on his stomach with his head oriented in the general direction of north.” In contrast, Officer Santiago, who arrives later on the scene, reports that Trayvon’s head “to the west.” It’s unclear if Trayvon’s head was actually oriented northwest, and both officers are right, or if Trayvon was rotated during the course of CPR.
Photos of the crime scene seem to show Trayvon’s body laying in the grass approx. 5-6 feet from the sidewalk. Trayvon was rolled over by police when they attempted to give first aid, so it’s possible he was originally laid out approx. 4-5 feet from the sidewalk. Either way, it does bring Zimmerman’s “head being bashed into concrete” story into doubt.
At autopsy, Trayvon’s cause of death is determined to be a single gunshot to the chest, which struck Tayvon’s heart and a lung, “1/2 inch below the nipple.” The direction of the gunshot is reported as “directly from front to back,” and was shot from “an intermediate distance.” The only other injury reported to Trayvon is 1/4″ by 1/8″ inch small abrasion to the left fourth finger.
The ME report also states that “Witnesses observed the two fighting in the yard and then the resident fired a handgun at the male striking him In the chest. The male fell to the ground.” It would appear the ME was given incomplete or inaccurate information regarding how the shooting took place, which was then incorporated into the report.
7:19pm: An unidentified civilian described only as “the photographer” takes a picture of the back of Zimmerman’s head. ABC News reports that file details show it was taken on location “three minutes after the shooting[,]” although the exact time is not specified. The photograph clearly shows the blood that was reported by Officer Smith, and it appears that the blood is coming from a wound on Zimmerman’s head, and did not originate from another source. This photo is useful in that it eliminates all outlier possibilities regarding Zimmerman’s head wound — that is, we can rule out the possibilities that either no wound existed, or that the wound was so great that, as Zimmerman’s brother reported, his head was a bloody pulp — but it is impossible to tell from this picture alone the exact extent of the wound. There isn’t enough blood for there to have been a serious gash, but for head injuries, a gash is going to be a far less serious problem than are non-visible internal injuries. On the other hand, the SFD’s actions, in treating Zimmerman’s injuries, do not indicate that they any apparent concern for a brain injury of any type.
The wound is also very high up on Zimmerman’s head. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that — I think the wound pretty much has to have originated from Zimmerman’s head contacting the ground, but it’s not where I would expect it if it came from either a fall or from a deliberate attempt to smack someone’s head into the ground.
The ABC News “photographer” also states that gunpowder marks were clearly visible on Martin’s hooded sweatshirt. Using my CSI training, a.k.a., by doing some quick google research, gunpowder residue will be somewhat apparent on a target that was shot from a range of around three feet or less, but heavy concentrations show up at shooting ranges of under 12 inches. If the gunpowder marks were clearly visible on gray fabric, in night time viewing conditions, then I think it is a fair assumption that Zimmerman shot Trayvon from a distance of 12 inches or less.
7:22pm, onwards: Zimmerman is taken into custody and cuffed by Officer Smith shortly before Officer Ayala arrives. As Ayala is giving CPR to Trayvon, Smith puts Zimmerman in the back of the police cruiser. Zimmerman receives first aid from the Sanford Fire Department while sitting in the back of Officer Smith’s car. At some point, Zimmerman announces, unasked, “I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me.” No questioning is performed at this time, and he is transported to the police station.
Police appear to have immediately accepted Zimmerman’s version of events. When one witness/911 caller gave a statement to police about an hour later, she started crying and stated she wished she could have helped. The officer responds, “If it makes you feel any better, the cries for help were not the person that died.” It’s clear that the police poisoned the witness statements by instructing the witnesses as to details they had not witnessed or did not know themselves, which likely contributed to the recent witness reversals and contradictions in testimony.
While performing first aid on Trayvon, Officer Raimondo finds a “large, cold can” of Arizona drink in Trayvon’s hoodie pocket. Officer Santiago reported that a cell phone was found “near the area of Martin”, but does not give precise details. The packet of skittles are also located in the hoodie pocket, and have traces of blood on them.
Investigators at the scene also find a key chain with a Honda remote key on it, which reportedly belongs to Zimmerman, near the “T” junction of the pathway between the houses. The key chain has a small silver flashlight-key chain attached to it, and the flashlight has been reported as still being on when police located it, suggesting Zimmerman was using it at the time of the altercation.
There is also a black flashlight found ~30 feet from the Honda key chain, closer to Trayvon’s body; this black flashlight had blood residue on it. I’ve seen the 6″ black flashlight described as belonging to Zimmerman, but I have seen no confirming reports for this. The black flashlight is also described as a “tactical” flashlight that could be used as a weapon; this may suggest it came from a responding police officer rather than Zimmerman, but the proximity to the keys could suggest it was Zimmerman’s, and dropped along with the keys when the confrontation started.
If the flashlight belongs to the police, the blood evidence found on it is insignificant and easily explainable. If it belongs to Zimmerman, however, it is a somewhat incongruous finding, as the flashlight if several feet away from where the “main” physical altercation is reported to have taken place, and is at least 10 feet away from where Trayvon was shot. If Zimmerman simply dropped the flashlight and keys before the fight started, there would not be blood on the flashlight — this possibly suggests that Zimmerman was still holding the tactical flashlight when he received the injury to his nose. But if so, why did Zimmerman not use it to defend himself against Trayvon? The tactical flashlight was Zimmerman’s, and during Zimmerman’s non-emergency call, you can hear him banging it to try and turn it on. Zimmerman seems to have had it in his hands during the altercation, but Zimmerman’s recounting of the fight is unclear about how he managed to carry it with him throughout the fight.
Although the keychain flashlight/Honda keys were found closer to the sidewalk on the “T” than was the tactical flashlight and the body, the shell casing from the shot that killed Trayvon is found ~40 feet from the “T”, and several feet away from the sidewalk. It appears to be located close to where Trayvon’s body ultimately ended up, but this is difficult to confirm from the released photos. above his head and slightly to the left.
The shell casing is marked by the yellow arrow, just left to the #6 marker. The #7 marker is Trayvon’s phone, while the #5 marker is the black tactical flashlight.
7:52pm: Time stamp on start of surveillance video of Sanford police department showing Zimmerman’s arrival in squad car. Zimmerman’s shirt is neatly tucked in, and he is moving without any apparent impediment beyond the handcuffs. Police allow him to move freely, aside from the cuffs. There is no visible blood, and police officers use no protective equipment; they can be observed inspecting Zimmerman, as well as manually handling him as they look him over. One policeman touches Zimmerman, and then wipes his hand off on his trousers. A small head wound on the upper back portion of Zimmerman’s head may be visible.
Photos taken before the blood was cleaned up from Zimmerman’s scalp show blood draining in small rivulets down his skull, rather than gushing. It may be significant that the rivulets uniformly tend to drain towards Zimmerman’s face, which means whenever Zimmerman was bleeding, his head was facing towards the ground. It is unclear when this bleeding occurred, however.
Back at the station, Zimmerman gave his story to police at least three times before being released. Police say his story remained consistent throughout, although we have not been provided with the precise contours of what that story consisted of. Zimmerman also made at least one of those statements while being video recorded.
Notes and Observations about the Timeline
In no particular order, here are some assorted observations about what implications the above timeline has on Trayvon Martin’s death.
The eye witness reports should not be relied upon. It was dark, there was bad weather, it was a brief and frantic fight, and no one knows what they saw. Eye witnesses get things wrong even under the best of viewing conditions, and the conditions at the time of Trayvon’s death were anything but that, in terms of expected reliability of witness recall. The 911 calls are themselves full of real-time descriptions from witnesses to the immediate aftermath of the shooting — and even when describing what they were seeing at the exact same time as they were seeing it, their descriptions do not match reality. One witness, for instance, describes that “there is a black male standing over” the deceased victim after the shooting had occurred, which is obviously an incorrect description of the scene. Another witness describing the fight states that “the guy on top has a white t-shirt” — an article of clothing which neither Zimmerman nor Trayvon were wearing at the time. (Zimmerman’s t-shirt was gray, but it was under a red (orange) jacket. Trayvon’s hoodie was gray as well, but it was long sleeved and not a t-shirt.)
In short, the witnesses can prove next to nothing about what happened here. The recordings of the 911 calls that they made, on the other hand, are far more useful in piecing together what happened.
[Update, 5/28/12: By now, at least five witnesses have been reported as changing their stories. This is unsurprising, particularly as it has become clear that the police who took the witness statements improperly coached and/or unintentionally tampered with the witness's recollections, by telling them facts and events they could not know in order to "correct" or "clarify" their testimony. In short, it has become even more clear that no definitive conclusions should be drawn about any of the events in this cases on the basis of eyewitness testimony alone.]
Zimmerman’s testimony is not being publicly disclosed, but will be an important source of impeachment evidence at trial. The State’s 5/24/12 Motion for Protective Order revealed a key element of the State’s case: Zimmerman’s statements to the police have been inconsistent, and are not fully supported by the available physical and eye witness evidence: “Defendant (Zimmerman) has provided law enforcement with numerous statements, some of which are contradictory, and are inconsistent with the physical evidence and statements of witnesses”. At this point we don’t know what Zimmerman’s version of the story is, but it looks like there’s at least more than one version he has been telling police, and it has some holes in it.
The crime scene does not support Zimmerman’s claim that Trayvon was pounding his head into the sidewalk. Trayvon was unarmed. Perhaps to make up for this fact, Zimmerman’s claim for why he was in imminent fear of death or grave bodily harm — and therefore why Zimmerman was allowed to kill Trayvon in self-defense — is that Trayvon was pounding his head into the concrete sidewalk. Although there is a sidewalk running through the middle of where the shooting occurred, the claim that Zimmerman’s head was being bashed into it does not make sense, because: (1) Zimmerman’s back had grass on it. Assuming that Zimmerman and Trayvon encountered each other while on the sidewalk, how could Zimmerman have fallen so that his legs and back were off the sidewalk, while his head was still on it? (2) Zimmerman was a bouncer for illegal house parties; during the course of a 1 minute long fight with a kid thirty pounds lighter than him, there is no possible explanation for how Zimmerman was able to move enough to get his back and legs onto grass, but not his head. In order to pound someone’s head into the ground while they are pinned down, you would literally have to pull their head up with one hand and before shoving it down again — and a one-armed pin is far easier to break. If you are pinning someone down with both arms, there is no way for you to repeatedly slam their head down, short of physically picking them up by the shoulders (while you’re sitting on their waist). (3) Trayvon’s body was found face down in the grass, with his arms underneath him. According to his father, Trayvon’s legs were on the sidewalk, while his head and torso were perpendicular to the sidewalk, on the grass. If Trayvon was shot in the chest while pinning/punching Zimmerman on the ground, his body would presumably have crumpled down to where it was found — which was in the grass, and not on the sidewalk. If Trayvon had Zimmerman pinned, face to face, how did his head ultimately come to be far away from the sidewalk, if just before he was shot he was pounding Zimmerman’s head into the sidewalk?
How Zimmerman got out from underneath Trayvon after shooting him, without rolling Trayvon onto his back, is another mystery. It also contradicts at least one report of what Zimmerman said happened, which is that Trayvon “fell back” saying “you got me” after the shooting. The best explanation for how Trayvon’s body was found that I can think of is that Trayvon, after being shot, fell on his back, or was pushed off of Zimmerman onto his back/side. Zimmerman, who witnesses have described as “standing over” the victim immediately after the shooting, then turns Trayvon onto his stomach, perhaps to check for an exit wound or in a clumsy attempt to see if he was still alive. This would plausibly cause at least one of Trayvon’s arms to be pinned under his body, and possibly the second. Or perhaps only one arm was pinned under Trayvon’s body, and Officer Ayala did not correctly see the positioning of the second arm.
Voice analysis of the first 911 call will be the single most important factor in this case. Listening to the first 911 call, it is painfully clear that whoever can be heard shouting for help is in imminent fear for their life. This isn’t the scream of someone in a wrestling match — it’s the wild, animal panic of someone who believes that they are about to die. If the voice shouting “help” is in fact Zimmerman’s, then, whether or not such a fear was objectively reasonable, his subjective fear that Trayvon was about to kill him would appear to be entirely genuine.
However, if the voice is in fact Zimmerman’s, then it also shows that Zimmerman was in control enough of the fight to have the breath to scream and plead for help, and that his shouts for “help” were not cut off by Trayvon “slamming” his head into the sidewalk. It is not the scream of someone “nearly unconscious,” as Zimmerman’s brother and father have alleged. And, whether it was Trayvon or Zimmerman screaming, the mere existence of the screams is inconsistent with the verbal exchange between the two as recounted by Zimmerman. No one is yelling “time to die” or “you got me” — they are yelling “help,” and nothing else.
This brings into question Zimmerman’s statement, while being given first aid in the back of the squad car, that ”I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me.” First, this slightly contradicts the claims given by both Zimmerman’s father and brother, which is that a more coherent conversation was going on. Second, Zimmerman would have every motivation to make this claim. If it was Trayvon yelling for help, Zimmerman would have known that neighbors in the nearby houses were likely to have heard it. He would have known he would need to explain the existence of the calls for help, and that, if it were known it was Trayvon screaming, it would look very bad for him.
But Zimmerman probably would not have considered the possibility his fight with Trayvon had been recorded in the background of a 911 call — the odds were against someone being that fast on the draw with their phone. So Zimmerman would not have had any reason to think it likely that his claims that it was him yelling for help, and not Trayvon, could be credibly challenged. It seemed like a completely safe — and completely necessary — claim at the time that he made it, but, if proven to be false, that statement could ultimately damn him by showing he was aware that what he had done was wrong and that he needed to lie to protect himself.
Zimmerman was in handcuffs less than 1.5 minutes after he killed Trayvon. In the police surveillance footage of Zimmerman arriving at the police station a half hour after Trayvon was killed, Zimmerman is shown being frisked and lead to an interview room. There is no sign of blood on him, although a possible wound on the upper back portion of his head may exist. Perhaps the oddest part of the surveillance video, however, is that Zimmerman’s shirt is tucked in, there are no visible scuff marks on his clothes, and nothing appears out of place. Zimmerman received cursory medical treatment while sitting in a squad car, hands cuffed behind him. The SFD likely dabbed up some blood, but they certainly didn’t tuck Zimmerman’s shirt in for him.
So, in the 90 seconds between shooting Trayvon and Officer Smith’s arrival on the scene, at which point Zimmerman was immediately handcuffed, did Zimmerman actually bother to nicely tuck his shirt in again? Or did Zimmerman’s shirt manage to stay perfectly tucked in for a one minute period while Zimmerman was punched to the ground and pinned down by someone who was on top of him in a fight?
Neither option is particularly plausible, especially combined with the absence of any blood or plain wounds. Zimmerman’s story is severely lacking in corroborating physical evidence — and if there were still photos taken of Zimmerman to support his claim that he was beaten up, why hasn’t someone leaked them by now? Or the medical records for the ‘broken nose’? The photo of Zimmerman showing blood on his face is not blood from a broken nose, but rather blood from two tiny cuts on the very point of Zimmerman’s nose — likely a result of kickback from Zimmerman firing the weapon, as no blood (or other DNA from Zimmerman) was found anywhere on Trayvon.
It’s likely that Zimmerman did in fact suffer a bump to his head, and maybe his nose, during the initial struggle with Trayvon. Zimmerman did hit the ground at some point, and Trayvon and Zimmerman were wrestling with one another for at least a minute. It’d be surprising if Zimmerman hadn’t picked up a bump or two from the tussle. But nothing about this indicates the injuries were anything but minor. My guess is that Zimmerman, in trying to explain his actions, took whatever reasons he could to claim he was in danger — and thus the bloody nose becomes a broken one in his re-telling, and a grazing would on his head that he got when he fell down becomes someone bashing his head into the sidewalk.