Entries in Neighborhood Watch (7)


George Zimmerman May Apologize to Trayvon Martin's Family

Seminole County Sheriff`s Office(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- The lawyer for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who was charged with second degree murder in the death of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, said that the 17-year-old's death "weighs on" Zimmerman and suggested his client might apologize to Martin's family.

"Understand that George fully well realizes that he was involved in some way in the death of another young man," lawyer Mark O'Mara told ABC News.

"He does not take the result of that altercation lightly at all.  That weighed on him, I would imagine, more than the isolation, more than the last six weeks, more probably than the threat of what is to come in the system," O'Mara said.

Zimmerman spent his first night in prison Thursday in protective custody, where he could be watched at all times.  Law enforcement sources told ABC News, the 28-year-old "wept quite a bit" at night.

O'Mara suggested that Zimmerman may apologize to Martin's family.

"What I want to happen is for that conversation to occur directly to the family rather than the media through me," the lawyer said.

When asked if he thought Zimmerman would go through with an apology, O'Mara replied, "Yeah, I imagine it would."  He did not know when that might happen.

O'Mara spoke with ABC News after Zimmerman made his first appearance in a Florida court on Thursday.  Zimmerman spoke once during the session, answering "Yes, sir" when Judge Mark E. Herr asked whether O'Mara was his attorney.

Zimmerman did not enter a plea and his attorney did not request bond.  His formal arraignment is scheduled for May 29.

O'Mara told ABC News he is preparing for a long court battle that could leave Zimmerman in jail for up to a year.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Trayvon Martin Shooting: Key Investigator, Police Chief Step Down

Mario Tama/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced Thursday he is temporarily stepping down amid accusations that his department bungled the investigation into the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

Lee's announcement came shortly before Florida Gov. Rick Scott said another key investigator tied to the case, State Attorney Norman Wolfinger, also had agreed to withdraw.  Angela B. Corey of the 4th Judicial Circuit Court was appointed to replace Wolfinger.

Scott added that Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll would lead a special new task force to prevent future tragedies like Martin's death that would "conduct public hearings, take testimony and recommend actions -- legislative and otherwise -- to both protect our citizens and safeguard our rights."

In a press conference, Lee said he was stepping aside because he "hopes to restore semblance of calm to the city."  He added, "My hope is that the investigation process will move forth swiftly."

Lee said he stands by his department's investigation and the officers involved, but he acknowledges that he has become "a distraction from the investigation."

"It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process," he said.

City Manager Norton Bonaparte, who had earlier said he would defer any decision on Lee's fate until after a thorough investigation had been completed, said, "What the city of Sanford wants more than anything else for the family of Trayvon Martin is justice."

"We are looking for a complete, thorough review," he said.  "Justice will prevail."

Martin, a 17-year-old black youth, was carrying only a bag of Skittles, iced tea and his cellphone, when Zimmerman allegedly killed him on Feb. 26.

While Martin's family has repeatedly called for Zimmerman's arrest, Sanford police accepted Zimmerman's claim that the shooting was in self defense.

Lee's resignation comes as the Sanford police department has come under increased scrutiny for an investigation that some say they botched from the very start.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Trayvon Martin's Family to Meet With Justice Department Officials

Trayvon Martin's parents address supporters in New York City. John Moore/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- The U.S. Attorney in Central Florida and officials from the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division will be meeting with Trayvon Martin’s family in Florida Thursday as they investigate the death of the 17-year-old.

The unarmed teenager was allegedly shot and killed by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman on Feb. 26 as Martin was walking back to his father's fiancé's home after stepping out to buy Skittles and iced tea during the NBA All-Star Game.  Just moments before Martin was gunned down, Zimmerman can be heard muttering something in a call to a police dispatcher, which many believe was a racial epithet.

Attorneys in the justice department are likely looking into whether or not Martin's rights were deprived by Zimmerman during the altercation that led to the teen's death.  They are also looking into whether he was the victim of a hate crime.

The meeting comes amid calls that the man leading the investigation into Martin's shooting death step down.  Sanford, Fla., commissioners conducted a vote of "no confidence" Wednesday night against embattled Police Chief Billy Lee.  Three of five commissioners voted against the chief, and one demanded that he resign. 

It is now up to the city manager to decide whether or not to let Lee go.

Meanwhile, the Martin family took their fight to the streets of New York City Wednesday night as they linked with around 2,000 protesters who marched through Manhattan, demanding justice for the slain 17-year-old.

"We will not go politely in the night," said the teen's father Tracy Martin.  "We will tell people in Florida that we are not alone." 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Friend Recounts Final Call With Trayvon Martin Before His Death

S. Meltzer/PhotoLink/Thinkstock(SANFORD, Fla.) -- In the last moments of his life, Trayvon Martin was being hounded by a strange man on a cellphone who ran after him, cornered him and confronted him, according to the teenage girl whose call logs show she was on the phone with the 17-year-old Florida high school student in the moments before neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot him dead.

Martin's death on Feb. 26 has stirred national outrage and protests, partly prompting the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI to open an investigation into the case.

ABC News was there exclusively as the 16-year-old girl told Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump about the last terrifying moments of the teenager's life.

"He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on.  He said he lost the man," Martin's friend said.  "I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast.  I told him to run but he said he was not going to run."

Eventually he would run, said the girl, thinking that he'd managed to escape.  But suddenly the strange man was back, cornering Martin.

"Trayvon said, 'What are you following me for?' and the man said, 'What are you doing here?'  Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell.  I called him again and he didn't answer the phone," she said.

Besides screams heard on 911 calls that night as Martin and Zimmerman scuffled, those were the last words Martin said.

Martin's phone logs, also obtained exclusively by ABC News, show the conversation occurred five minutes before police first arrived on scene.  The young woman's parents asked that her name not be used, and that only an attorney could ask her questions.

Martin's father Tracey Martin and mother Sybrina Fulton listened to the call along with ABC News.

"He knew he was being followed and tried to get away from the guy, and the guy still caught up with him," Tracey Martin said.  "And that's the most disturbing part.  He thought he had got away from the guy and the guy back-tracked for him."

The teen was killed by Zimmerman while walking back to his father's fiancé's home after stepping out to buy Skittles and some iced tea during the NBA All-Star Game.

After weeks of relentless pressure, the Sanford, Fla., Police Department decided to release emergency and non-emergency calls placed during the incident.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Florida Teen's Shooter Ignored Neighborhood Watch Guidelines

AbleStock/Thinkstock(SANFORD, Fla.) -- George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old Florida high school student, last month blatantly violated major principles of the Neighborhood Watch manual, ABC News has learned.

The manual, from the National Neighborhood Watch Program, states: "It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers, and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles. They should also be cautioned to alert police or deputies when encountering strange activity. Members should never confront suspicious persons who could be armed and dangerous."

Yet Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense in shooting Martin, made a non-emergency call to police and pursued him anyway before fatally shooting the teenager on Feb. 26.

The Sanford, Fla., Police Department, relenting to massive public pressure, released parts of these 911 tapes pertaining to the shooting.

On the tapes, Zimmerman, claiming Martin looked intoxicated, says he saw the teenager cut through from the main street in the tidy Retreat at Twin Lakes, onto a path between two blocks of townhouses, and decided to give chase. Zimmerman told a police dispatcher, "These a*******, they always get away."

Dispatcher: "Are you following him?"

Zimmerman: "Yes."

Dispatcher: "OK, we don't need you to do that."

Zimmerman didn't stop and ultimately confronted Martin, who was carrying a package of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea. The two allegedly scuffled. In a series of seven 911 calls, eyewitnesses reported that they heard a sort of howling. One caller said, "They're wrestling right in the back of my porch, one man is yelling help."

Then a gunshot rang out. The howling and yelling stopped.

Zimmerman wasn't arrested at the time, and ABC News has learned he was not given a drug or alcohol test that night -- standard in most homicide investigations.

Law enforcement expert Rod Wheeler, who listened to the tapes, told ABC News that Zimmerman, not Martin, sounded intoxicated in the police recordings of the 911 calls.

"When I listened to the 911 tape, the first thing that came to my mind is this guy sounds intoxicated. Notice how he's slurring his words. We as trained law enforcement officers, we know how to listen for that right away, and I think that's going to be an important element of this entire investigation," Wheeler said.

According to Chris Tutko, the director of the National Neighborhood Watch Program, there are about 22,000 registered watchgroups nationwide, and Zimmerman was not part of a registered group -- another fact the police were not aware of at the time of the incident.

Martin's family Monday called on the FBI to take over what it says is a botched investigation. As of Monday night, the Justice Department released a statement announcing the department's Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida and the FBI had opened an investigation in the circumstances of Martin's death.

"The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation," the statement read.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Trayvon Martin's Family Seeks FBI Investigation of Killing

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- The family of Trayvon Martin is asking the FBI to get involved in the investigation of the killing of the unarmed 17-year-old Florida high school student, who was shot last month by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman outside his stepmother's home.

Martin, a black high school junior, was making his way home with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea on Feb. 26 when George Zimmerman spotted him, called a non-emergency dispatch number to report that Martin looked intoxicated, followed him, and then minutes later after an altercation, shot him.

Zimmerman, 28, who is white, claimed self defense.  He was never arrested and has been charged with no crime, sparking national outrage.

ABC News has learned police seemed to accept Zimmerman's account at face value that night and that he was not tested for drugs or alcohol on the night of the shooting, even though it is standard procedure in most homicide investigations.

Now, Martin family attorney Ben Crump has written a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, and it's being circulated by several members of Congress who are putting pressure on him to get the FBI involved.

An FBI spokesman told ABC News: "We are aware of the incident, we have been in contact with local authorities and are monitoring the matter."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Florida Watch Shooting Probe Reveals Questionable Police Conduct

AbleStock/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- ABC News has uncovered questionable police conduct in the investigation of the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white neighborhood watch captain in Florida, including the alleged "correction" of at least one eyewitness' account.

Sanford Police Chief Billy Lee said there is no evidence to dispute self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman's assertion that he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin out of self-defense.

"Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don't have the grounds to arrest him," Lee said.

Martin had been staying at his father's girlfriend's house during the night of the NBA All-Star game on Feb. 26.  The teenager went out to get some Skittles and a can of ice tea.  On his way back into the gated suburban Orlando community, Martin, wearing a hood, was spotted by Zimmerman, 26.

According to law enforcement sources who heard Zimmerman's call to a non-emergency police number, he told a dispatcher "these a..holes always get away."

Zimmerman described Martin as suspicious because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and walking slowly in the rain, police later told residents at a town hall.

A dispatcher told Zimmerman to wait for a police cruiser, and not leave his vehicle.  But about a minute later, he left his car wearing a red sweatshirt and pursued Martin on foot between two rows of townhouses -- about 70 yards from where the teen was going.

Witnesses told ABC News a fist fight broke out and at one point Zimmerman, who outweighed Martin by more than 100 pounds, was on the ground and that Martin was on top.

Several residents heard someone cry for help, just before hearing a gunshot.  Police arrived 60 seconds later and the teen was quickly pronounced dead.

According to the police report, Zimmerman, who was armed with a handgun, was found bleeding from the nose and the back of the head, standing over Martin, who was unresponsive after being shot.

An officer at the scene overheard Zimmerman saying, "I was yelling for someone to help me but no one would help me," the report said.  Witnesses told ABC News they heard Zimmerman pronounce aloud to the residents watching that "it was self-defense."

But after the shooting, a source inside the police department told ABC News that a narcotics detective and not a homicide detective first approached Zimmerman.  The detective peppered Zimmerman with questions, the source said, rather than allow Zimmerman to tell his story.  Questions can lead a witness, the source said.

Another officer corrected a witness after she told him that she heard the teen cry for help.  The officer told her, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, the witness told ABC News.

The Sanford Police Department refused to release 911 calls by witnesses and neighbors.  Several of the calls, ABC News has learned, contain the sound of the single gunshot.

Lee publicly admitted that officers accepted Zimmerman's word at the scene that he had no police record.  Yet public records showed that Zimmerman was charged with battery against an officer and resisting arrest in 2005, a charge that was later expunged.

Zimmerman has not responded to requests for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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