Entries in Sanford Police Department (2)


George Zimmerman Knew Several Sanford Police Officers Before Shooting

Trayvon Martin, 17, was fatally shot by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman. (ABC News)(SANFORD, Fla.) -- George Zimmerman, who was not initially charged by police in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, was familiar with some of the officers in the Sanford, Fla., police department, having gone on several "ride alongs" with the cops, he told the city's mayor last year.

But Zimmerman, a criminal studies major, was harsh in his criticism of the cops he had met on the Sanford force, calling their on-the-job conduct "disgusting."

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, voiced his opinion at a January 2011 city commission hearing that included then Mayor-Elect Jeff Triplet.

One officer "showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps, explained to me that he doesn't carry a long gun in his vehicle because -- in his words -- anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork and you're going to find me as far away from it," Zimmerman said.

He added the officer "took two lunch breaks and attended a going away party for one of his officers."

These rides, along with new video showing Zimmerman roaming the police department unescorted just three days after the shooting, are reviving old questions of Zimmerman's relationship with the department that decided against charging him with a crime on the night of the shooting.

When ABC News asked the Sanford Police force in mid-March whether Zimmerman had any contact or relationship with the police force, the answer on more than one occasion was no.

"We do not have specific dates Mr. Zimmerman may have ridden or with whom he rode, if in fact he ever did ride with SPD," Capt. Robert O'Connor of the Sanford Police Department said in a statement Wednesday.

Zimmerman was later charged by a state prosecutor with second-degree murder in Martin's Feb. 26 shooting death.

These revelations come as a number of witnesses who claimed to have seen or heard parts of Zimmerman's fatal confrontation with Martin apparently changed or expanded their testimony in the weeks after the shooting.

In a March 13 ABC News article on possible police missteps in the investigation, it was also noted that some of the witnesses felt that police had "corrected" their testimony.

Given that Zimmerman's trial may not take place for a year the memories of the dozen or so witnesses that dark rainy night -- memories that possibly influenced evolving coverage of the case in the news -- would likely be hotly contested in court.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Trayvon Martin Case: Lead Investigator Asked to Step Down

Comstock/Thinkstock(SANFORD, Fla.) -- As tensions between community leaders and residents in Sanford, Fla., reach a boiling point, the man leading the investigation into the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is being asked to step down.

During a heated special meeting regarding the death of the unarmed teen, who was shot and killed allegedly by the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, Sanford city commissioners conducted a vote of no confidence against embattled Police Chief Billy Lee. Three of five commissioners voted against the chief.

One commissioner demanded that Lee resign. It is now up to the city manager to decide whether or not to let Lee go.

"The unknown in a tragedy will make the heart do crazy things, and we haven't done a good job of getting out in front of that," said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett after the vote. "I have confidence in him in a lot of ways, and don't have confidence in him in some ways."

The vote of "no confidence" came after Triplett was forced to answer some tough questions from neighborhood residents and the media, during an NAACP meeting aimed at addressing allegations of police misconduct in the community.

"If there were mistakes made we are going to act accordingly," Triplett said in response to a question from ABC News about the investigation into Martin's death.

Some believe local authorities botched the investigation from the start.

Martin, who was black, was carrying only a bag of skittles, iced tea and his cell phone, when Zimmerman shot and killed him on Feb. 26. While Martin's family has repeatedly called for Zimmerman's arrest, Sanford Police accepted and stand by Zimmerman's claim of self-defense.

But it's not just the mayor, or the conduct of the police officers, that is being questioned.

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law gives enormous leeway to people like Zimmerman to use deadly force if they feel threatened. Since the law was enacted seven years ago, justified homicides in Florida have jumped threefold, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Twenty states have similar laws, but Florida's is widely viewed as having the broadest application. Courts across the state have been trying to figure out how to grapple with the legislation.

Cases like Martin's have led Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, one of the original sponsors of the law, to say that it has been misused.

"There was nothing in this statute ever intended to protect somebody who was pursuing or confronting other people," said Baxley.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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