George Zimmerman’s written police statement, taken on the night that he shot Trayvon Martin, has now been released by his defense counsel, along with several audio recordings of oral statements he gave. I have not been able to listen to the recorded statements yet, but my transcript of the handwritten statement is as follows:
In August of 2011 my neighbors house was broken into while she was with her infant son. The intruders attempted to attack her and her child; however, SPD reported to the scene of the crime and the robbers fled, my wife saw the intruders running from the home and became scared of the rising crime within our neighborhood. I, an my neighbors formed a “Neighborhood Watch Program.” We were instructed by the SPD to call the non-emergency line if we saw anything suspicious & 911 if we saw a crime in progress. Tonight, I was on my way to the grocery store when I saw a male approximately 5’11” to 6’2″ casually walking in the rain, looking into homes. I pulled my vehicle over and called SPD non-emergency phone number. I told the dispatcher what I had witnesses, the dispatcher took note of my location & the suspect fled to a [darkened?] area of the sidewalk, as the dispatch was asking me for an exact location the suspect emerged from the darkness and circled my vehicle. I could not hear if he said anything. The suspect once again disappeared between the back of some houses. The dispatch once again asked for my exact location. I could not remember the name of the street so I got out of my car to look for a street sign. The dispatch asked me for a description and the direction the suspect went. I told the dispatch I did not know but I was out of my vehicle looking for a street sign & the direction the suspect went. The dispatch told me not to follow the suspect & that an officer was in route. As I headed back to my vehicle the suspect emerged from the darkness and said “you got a problem” I said “no” the suspect said “you do now”. And [illegible] and tried to find my phone to dial 911 the suspect punched me in the face. I fell backwards onto my back. The suspect got on top of me. I called “Help!” several times. The suspect told me “shut the fuck up” as I tried to sit up right. The suspect grabbed my head and slammed it into the concrete sidewalk several times. I continued to yell “Help!” each time I attempted to sit up, the suspect slammed my head into the side walk, my head felt like it was going to explode. I tried to slide out from under the suspect and continue to yell “Help”. As I slid the suspect covered my mouth and nose and stopped my breathing. At this point, I felt the suspect reach for my now exposed firearm and said “you gonna die tonight motha [fuckin’?].” I unholstered my firearm in fear for my life as he had assured he was going to kill me and fired one shot into his torso. The suspect got back allowing me to sit up and said “you got me.” At this point I slid out from underneath him and got on top of the suspect holding his hands away from his body. An onlooker appeared and asked me if I was ok, I said “no” he said “I am calling 911″ I said I don’t need you to call 911 I already called them I need you to help me restrain this guy.” At this point a SPD officer arrived and asked who shot him” & I said “I did” and I placed my hands ontop of my head and told the officer where my personal firearm was holstered. The officer handcuffed me and disarmed me. The officer then placed me into the back of his vehicle.
This statement is going to be a very big problem for Zimmerman’s defense team. It is more troubling than I expected — many of the more incongruous and bizarre claims that were in contained in the reports relayed by George Zimmerman’s brother and father are also present in Zimmerman’s own statement, and they are not adding up.
Even taking this statement in the most favorable light for the defense, it contains several factual inaccuracies and at least one gaping omission that Zimmerman’s counsel is going to have to explain. Some incorrect or distorted recollections are to be expected — witnesses are, in general, very bad at remembering a precise account of high stress events. That Zimmerman’s statement contains some odd inaccuracies is not notable in itself, or a sign that Zimmerman intentionally tried to misstate the truth. Zimmerman’s account, however, contains a number of troubling, self-serving statements that are inconsistent with the known facts of this case.
Here are excerpts of some of the more significant allegations in the statement, and a brief summary of the significance of those allegations.
Tonight, I was on my way to the grocery store when I saw a male approximately 5’11” to 6’2″ casually walking in the rain, looking into homes.
Zimmerman lives in the far southwest corner of the neighborhood. Both entrances to the neighborhood complex are on the same road that Zimmerman lives on, and not on Twin Trees, where Zimmerman’s car was parked and where the first encounter between the two occurred. Why was Zimmerman on Twin Trees Ln., then? Zimmerman claims he just happened to notice Trayvon as he was driving to the grocery store, but it seems more likely Zimmerman pursued Trayvon in his car even before the call to police was made.
I have yet to see it confirmed precisely where Zimmerman’s truck was parked, or which way it was facing, but the consensus seems to be he was just east of the dog-leg of Twin Trees Ln., in the north side lane, facing towards the club house. In order to be in this location, Zimmerman would have had to have taken a very odd path out of the neighborhood complex.
[A]s the dispatch was asking me for an exact location the suspect emerged from the darkness and circled my vehicle. I could not hear if he said anything. The suspect once again disappeared between the back of some houses. The dispatch once again asked for my exact location.
Zimmerman’s call to the non-emergency line does not support this part of Zimmerman’s statement. In that call, Zimmerman does not narrate either (1) Trayvon “circling” his vehicle, or (2) Zimmerman losing sight of Trayvon on two separate occasions. In the phone call, we hear Zimmerman describing Trayvon “coming to check me out,” and then “running,” but Zimmerman never states that he lost sight of Trayvon before that. Nor does he mention any “circling” — only “approaching” and then passing by Zimmerman’s truck.
The suspect once again disappeared between the back of some houses. The dispatch once again asked for my exact location. I could not remember the name of the street so I got out of my car to look for a street sign.
First, there are exactly three streets in Zimmerman’s neighborhood. Three. It defies all reason that Zimmerman, the dedicated neighborhood watch leader, could not even name the three streets that make up his neighborhood. Additionally, the call logs from Zimmerman’s prior calls to the police seem to indicate that Zimmerman was repeatedly able to direct officers to precise crossroads in the neighborhood, reporting incidents at “nearest Intersection: TWIN TREES LN & LONG OAK WAY”. A review of the transcripts of those calls would be necessary to be sure, but I suspect that will be easily confirmed.
And second, there are no street signs anywhere near where Zimmerman’s car was parked, where the shooting took place, or anywhere in between. If Zimmerman was going to look for a street sign, he was going the wrong way. In fact, in the call to police, Zimmerman freely admits his purpose in exiting the vehicle was to follow Trayvon:
Dispatcher: Are you following him?
So Zimmerman’s written statement does not provide his prior admitted reason for getting out of his vehicle, and substitutes it with a nonsensical alternative explanation. Why would Zimmerman lie about his reason for getting out of the car, when the truth was not even particularly detrimental to his claims? It does show that Zimmerman was aware of a need to rewrite the events, starting even with basic details.
The dispatch told me not to follow the suspect & that an officer was in route. As I headed back to my vehicle the suspect emerged from the darkness and said “you got a problem” I said “no” the suspect said “you do now”.
Dispatch instructed Zimmerman not to follow the suspect at approximately 7:11:55 – 7:12:05pm. My best estimate of when the encounter between Zimmerman and Trayvon occurred is between 7:15:30 – 7:15:45pm, and it seems unlikely based on available testimony that it occurred any sooner. So that is, conservatively, an entire three minute period of events, which Zimmerman’s statement utterly omits, and which his statement glosses over as if it were a period of only a few seconds.
In the minimum 200 second time period that elapsed between Zimmerman being instructed to return to his vehicle and the time of the fight, what did Zimmerman do? We do not know, and his statement to police never explains it. The physical altercation between Zimmerman and Trayvon occurred ~35 meters from the location of Zimmerman’s truck — he could have walked there and back to his truck again three times over, in the time that elapsed.
Zimmerman apparently believes that his actions during that time period are best left unstated. We can only speculate as to why.
[E]ach time I attempted to sit up, the suspect slammed my head into the side walk[.]
Trayvon’s body was found over a body length away from the sidewalk. The shell casing from Zimmerman’s gun was found ~4 ft from the sidewalk. Zimmerman’s back and the fronts of his boots and the front cuffs of his pants are damp, and either shown in photos or reported by witnesses to be covered in grass. Witnesses also reported the fight occuring in the grass between the houses.
It is definitely possible that the fight between the two occurred partially on the sidewalk, but this part of Zimmerman’s story has always felt wrong to me — it just does not add up. But, based on released evidence so far, it is impossible to get any better of a reconstruction of how the fight actually played out.
As I slid the suspect covered my mouth and nose and stopped my breathing. At this point, I felt the suspect reach for my now exposed firearm and said “you gonna die tonight motha [fuckin’?]”. I unholstered my firearm in fear for my life as he had assured he was going to kill me and fired on shot into his torso.
This statement reads like it was perfectly scripted to provide a self-defense claim. Zimmerman’s own stated reason for shooting Trayvon was not based on Trayvon’s unarmed physical assault, but rather on Trayvon’s “assur[ances]” that he would kill Zimmerman. If you’re going to claim self-defense, it can’t hurt to make the claim that your victim conveniently notified you of his murderous intent seconds before you shot him.
Apparently, Zimmerman did not consider using lethal force during the beating until Trayvon made a threat to take Zimmerman’s own gun away, and the “fear for [his] life” only came as a result of Zimmerman’s own firearm being introduced to the fight. But nothing about this description of the fight makes sense, no matter how I try to picture how it might have happened. (1) With a single hand, Trayvon was able to cover Zimmerman’s airway sufficiently to stop his breathing. (2) With his other hand, Trayvon was able to grab Zimmerman’s holstered weapon. (3) Despite not being able to breathe, Zimmerman does not use his (apparently unrestrained) hands to clear his airway. Instead while Trayvon was laying on top of him and while Trayvon was also grabbing at the gun, Zimmerman was able to unholster the gun at his side — presumably single-handedly, using only the hand on the same side as the gun, as Trayvon was on top of him — .raise the gun from his waist to chest level, push Trayvon far enough off of him in order to place the gun between himself and Trayvon, and fire. (4) The first 911 call shows that the “help!” calls continue right up to, and are cut off by, the screams for help. Zimmerman was apparently still able to shout during this time period, despite having had his breathing “stopped” by Trayvon.
It doesn’t make sense. It is possible, however, that owing to the stress of the fight and the intensity of the moment, Zimmerman is remembering the details out of order, leading to the story’s incoherency.
An onlooker appeared and asked me if I was ok, I said “no” he said “I am calling 911”
I wonder if the “onlooker” referred to hear is witness “John,” who reported stating during the fight that he was calling 911? If so, then either Zimmerman is completely wrong about events, or John apparently only stated he was calling 911 after Trayvon was already dead.
At this point I slid out from underneath him and got on top of the suspect holding his hands away from his body.
This could explain why there is contradicting witness testimony regarding who was on top and who was on bottom of the fight. The witness who reported seeing someone in a “white shirt” on top may have seen Zimmerman pinning Trayvon after he was already dead.