Terrance Heath

Trayvon Martin Murder: Zimmerman Chose to Escalate

Filed By Terrance Heath | June 27, 2012 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: George Zimmerman, hate crimes against LGBT people, murder, Trayvon Martin

trayvon-martin.jpeg

I’ll be honest. Sometimes I actually kinda like being able to say, "I told you so." But most of the time I don’t. This is one of those times I don’t, because this is one of those stories that should never have happened in the first place. But like I said before, at least one person could have stopped it from happening, had several opportunities to stop it from happening, and chose not to.


The latest info dump in the Trayvon Martin murder case includes a police report that reveals something many people figured out long ago: Zimmerman had several chances to end things without resorting to violence.

The police detective concluded that Zimmerman’s actions were "inconsistent" with someone who was afraid of Martin, and that Zimmerman had several chances to end the encounter without violence.

"Investigative findings show that Zimmerman admitted avoiding a confrontation with Martin while Zimmerman was observing Martin from his vehicle, because, as he told investigators, was afraid of Martin," Det. Chris Serino wrote. "Later in the encounter, Zimmerman exited his vehicle, in spite of his earlier admission to investigators that he was afraid of Martin, and followed Martin in an effort to maintain surveillance of him while Zimmerman awaited the arrival of law enforcement officers. His actions are inconsistent with those of a person who has stated he was in fear of another subject.

"Investigative findings show that George Michael Zimmerman had at least two opportunities to speak with Trayvon Benjamin Martin in order to defuse the circumstances surrounding their encounter. On at least two occasions, George Martin Zimmerman failed to identify himself as a concerned resident or a neighborhood watch member to Trayvon Benjamin Martin. Investigative findings show the physical dimension of Trayvon Benjamin Martin, and that of George Michael Zimmerman, coupled with the absence of any specialized training in hand to hand combat between either combatant, did not place George Michael Zimmerman in an extraordinary or exceptional disadvantage of apparent physical ability or defensive capacity.

…"The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, 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 dialog 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. Zimmerman, by his statements made to the call taker and recorded for review, and his statements made to investigators following the shooting death of Martin, made it clear that he had already reached a faulty conclusion as to Martin’s purpose for being in the neighborhood."

As much as I hate to say it, I told you so. Here’s what I wrote back in March, from Trayvon’s point of view.

For just a moment, put yourself in Trayvon’s shoes. You’re walking down a dark street. Maybe you’re walking home. You’re alone. The street is empty, probably because its raining a little. As you walk, you notice someone following you. A strange man car is following youth his car. He follows you for a couple of blocks.

What’s your first reaction? How do you feel? Most people would feel anxious. It’s not a stretch to imagine that a kid like Trayvon might be more than a little afraid. Who wouldn’t? It’s enough to make you think that if anyone had reason to fear for his life that night, it was Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman describes Trayvon turning around and looking at him. probably at this point Zimmerman is still in his car. He describes Trayvon as "checking me out." At his point Zimmerman has been following Trayvon in his vehicle long enough for Trayvon to notice and become concerned. It reasonable that Trayvon wanted to know who was following him and why, or to at least get a better look at the strange man following him in a truck.

Zimmerman describes Trayvon reaching into his waistband. He suspected that Trayvon was armed, but this is also am extension of his initial classification of Trayvon as a "suspicious" person because of his race. Perhaps Trayvon’s hoodie was part of the equation, but considering that Zimmerman was similarly attired, and actually armed, it’s a reasonable assumption that Trayvon’s race was the deciding factor in Zimmerman’s chosen course of action.

To Trayvon’s credit, he didn’t run. He just picked up his pace. This is probably when Zimmerman says to the 911 dispatcher, "Oh shit. He’s running." If Trayvon had run, Zimmerman might have considered that sufficient confirmation of his suspicions to open fire. After all, who would run from a strange man who’s following him in a car, unless that person was up to no good? If he wasn’t doing anything wrong, why would he run from a stranger following him down a dark street, in his car?

And at every point at which he could have chosen to defuse the situation, Zimmerman chose to escalate.

Escalation

Zimmerman claims the scuffle started when he turned around to return to his vehicle and Trayvon attacked him from behind. That doesn’t ring true to me, based on Zimmerman’s behavior up to that point. Turning around and heading back to his vehicle suggests that Zimmerman suddenly decided to back down. This would be out of character with his behavior and choices up to that point. Based on the 911 recordings alone, at each decision point Zimmerman chooses to escalate the situation.

  • Escalation: Upon seeing Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman calls 911. But he also begins following Trayvon in his vehicle, despite the 911 dispatcher advising him not to do so, thus bringing himself to Trayvon’s attention.
  • Escalation: At some point Zimmerman gets out of his vehicle, and continues following Trayvon on foot. At this point, he knows that Trayvon has seen him and knows he’s being followed.
  • Escalation: I think it’s a reasonable assumption that Zimmerman initiated a verbal confrontation by asking Trayvon "What are you doing here?" Trayvon responded with a bit of verbal self-defense of his right to be there, by answering Zimmerman with a question, "Why are you following me?

Nothing in Zimmerman’s choices and actions from the time he saw Trayvon to the moment before their physical altercation suggests that, having gotten out of his vehicle and started a verbal confrontation, that he would suddenly turn around and go back to his vehicle.

It’s also unclear why he would do so. If he left his phone in the vehicle, was he going back to get it and make another call to 911? If so, to report what? That Trayvon was still just walking down the street.

He wasn’t going back to get his gun. Having a concealed carry permit, he wouldn’t leave his gun in the car. And given that he already thinks Trayvon is a "suspicious" person, probably there to commit a crime, it’s unlikely that he would get out of the car and confront him unarmed.

The above is from the final post in a four-part series on Trayvon Martin’s murder.


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