The killing of Trayvon Martin was “ultimately avoidable” if George Zimmerman had just stayed in his vehicle instead of pursuing the unarmed teen, Florida police investigators concluded in one of a series of reports on the case released late Thursday.
Instead, the Sanford Police Department investigators wrote, Zimmerman confronted the teen, ended up in a struggle and eventually shot him in the chest. In the end, Martin was dead and police were recommending the neighborhood watchman be brought up on a criminal charge of manslaughter.
The conclusions came to light on Thursday as part of a huge release of evidence by the Florida prosecutors who later performed their own investigation and charged Zimmerman with the more serious crime of second-degree murder. Totaling 183 pages, the heavily redacted documents include police narratives, witness interviews, autopsy reports and photos of Zimmerman bloodied after the Feb. 26 struggle.
“The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman,” the report said, “if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement, or conversely if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialogue in an effort to dispel each party’s concern. There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter.”
The investigators’ conclusions were in a document dated March 13. Zimmerman wasn’t charged until April 11 after special prosecutor Angela Corey was assigned to the case by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. By then, the killing was already the focus of international attention and outrage.
Previously, Zimmerman has said he believed the teen looked “suspicious” as he crossed through the gated neighborhood in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman called 911 at the time but ignored the requests of a police dispatcher who told him not to pursue the teen.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charge, claiming he acted in self defense, saying Martin attacked him first and he had to shoot him to save his own life.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com