In an account given to Sanford police that was passed on to the Florida state attorney’s office, George Zimmerman, the neighbourhood-watch volunteer who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, said that Mr. Martin had punched him and then repeatedly slammed his head into the sidewalk in the moments leading up to the shooting.
The details were the most thorough yet to be revealed from Mr. Zimmerman’s point of view and came out on Monday as thousands were arriving in town to march and attend a meeting about the shooting and the investigation that followed.
In the 911 calls that have been released, Mr. Zimmerman is heard deciding, against the advice of the dispatcher, to follow Mr. Martin, whom he deemed “up to no good.”
In Mr. Zimmerman’s sequence of events to the police, he returned to his SUV after he was unable to find him. Mr. Martin then allegedly approached Mr. Zimmerman from behind and they exchanged words. Then, Mr. Zimmerman said, Mr. Martin hit him hard enough that he fell to the ground – which, if true, would explain what Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, Craig Sonner, has said was a broken nose – and began slamming his head into the sidewalk.
The account first appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on Monday but was later confirmed by the Sanford Police Department as “consistent with the information provided to the state attorney’s office by the police department.”
At a news conference on Monday, the Martin family, their lawyer and supporters said the police were attempting to demonize Mr. Martin by leaking Mr. Zimmerman’s account to the media.
The most relevant fact in Mr. Martin’s death, they said, is that Mr. Zimmerman chose to pursue Mr. Martin, who was walking home unarmed, despite the advice of the police dispatcher to stay put in his car.
“They have killed my son,” Sybrina Fulton, Mr. Martin’s mother, said tearfully at the news conference. “And now they are trying to kill his reputation.”
Benjamin Crump, a lawyer representing the Martin family, said it was clear from the conversation between Mr. Martin and his girlfriend minutes before the shooting that Mr. Martin was being pursued by a man he did not know, was worried and wanted to get away from him.
The Martin family’s supporters continued to demand Mr. Zimmerman’s arrest and demanded a repeal of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which police cite in their inability to arrest Mr. Zimmerman.
“[Mr.]Zimmerman is alive and can say whatever he wants,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended the news conference along with Rev. Jesse Jackson. “And Trayvon is dead and can’t defend himself.”
On Monday evening, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Sharpton and the Martin family attended a city commission meeting, which was so large that it was moved from city hall to Sanford’s civic centre. About 500 people sat on folding chairs inside and hundreds more stood outside watching on a jumbo screen, many wearing T-shirts saying, “Do I Look Suspicious?” or “My Hoodie Does Not Mean I’m a Criminal.”
“Something will change because of this,” said Tasha Barnes, 26, who was standing outside in the crowd with her two-month-old daughter, Kaliyah. “It’s got to change. Police don’t want no riot and if justice is not made, there will be a riot.”
Mr. Jackson, members of the Martin family and Mr. Sharpton spoke at the meeting, with Mr. Sharpton telling the Sanford city commissioners that the city is risking going down in history as Birmingham and other infamous cities did during the civil-rights era.
More information came out earlier in the day about Mr. Martin’s recent 10-day suspension from high school, a topic the family has been reluctant to discuss but that led to his being brought by his father to Sanford in the days before his death.
Saying that the issue had become a distraction, Mr. Crump announced that Mr. Martin had been suspended from his Miami high school after school officials found, in his book bag, a plastic bag with traces of marijuana inside. Mr. Crump said that he believed at least one other student was suspended in the episode.
“What he was suspended for has no bearing on what happened on Feb. 26,” Mr. Crump said. “He didn’t do anything violent or criminal.”
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