Investigations into the death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager who was shot in a gated community in Florida by a neighborhood watch captain last month, have now moved to the Florida State Attorney's office. According to CBS News, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced that the local police turned the case over to state authorities on Tuesday. Now Florida state Attorney Norm Wolfinger's office will be in charge of reviewing the evidence and determining whether to charge 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman with any crime.
According to a police report, on the night of Feb.26, Zimmerman dialed 9-1-1while he was on duty, and said that he had spotted a suspicious person in the area from his vehicle. He was told to wait for a police squad car, but instead got out of his car and into a physical altercation with 17-year old Martin, which ended with Zimmerman fatally shooting him. Martin, who is from Miami, was visiting his father in Sanford, Fla. and was returning to the gated community from a nearby convenience store after buying a pack of skittles and an iced tea. He was unarmed.
Since the incident, the Martin family, Martin's supporters and critics of local police officials have cried out for Zimmerman's arrest, saying that Martin was a victim of racial profiling and that Zimmerman's acts should be classified as murder, while Zimmerman has claimed that he acted in self-defense. Local police chiefs have said that they are unable to find enough evidence to justify Zimmerman's arrest.
The evidence and testimony we have so far does not establish that Mr. Zimmerman did not act in self-defense, Sanford police Chief Bill Lee said, according to CNN. We don't have anything to dispute his claim of self-defense, at this point, with the evidence and testimony that we have.
Lee also said that the instructions he received from the police during the 911 call were suggestions on how to handle the situations, and not necessarily direct orders.
That is a call taker making a recommendation to him. He's not under a legal obligation to do that, so that is not something we can charge him with, Lee said. But it would have been a good outcome ... if Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman never came in contact with one another.
Questions have also risen over Zimmerman's police record and statements made by witnesses to the incident. While local police had initially said that Zimmerman's record was clean, Zimmerman had a history of a past arrest and violence. According to reports by ABC news affiliate WESH, Zimmerman was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence in 2005 but was later released with case was dropped for lack of evidence.
The Sanford police department continues to refuse revealing 9-1-1 calls made by the witnesses and neighbors. According to ABC News' inside sources, several of the calls have the sound of the gunshot that killed Martin, and an officer corrected a witness after she told him that she heard martin cry for help. Another unnamed source inside the police department said that a narcortics detective, and not a homicide detective, initially questioned Zimmerman, overwhelming him with questions instead of letting Zimmerman tell the story, reported ABC news. This interrogation technique may have tempered with the story.
Members of the Martin family have asked for the tapes to be released, but State Attorney Norm Wolfinger said Tuesday the calls will still not be available to the public until the investigation the investigation has been completed,reported CNN. It is still unclear whether the State Attorney's office will charge Zimmerman, but the office has asserted that they will conduct a careful investigation into the case.
Trayvon Martin and his family, interested persons, and the public-at-large are entitled to no less than a through, deliberate and just review of the information provided, along with any other evidence that may or may not be developed in the course of the review process, Wolfinger's office said in a statement. We intend to honor that commitment.