A nighttime encounter on a quiet Florida street followed by hollering and pleas for help…..then a shot. On Friday, the Sanford, Fla., police department released a flurry of 911 tapes from the night an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, was killed by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, 28-year-old George Zimmermanon, on patrol of the neighborhood. The chilling tapes indicate that Zimmerman was in a resentful state of mind as he patrolled the neighborhood in the wake of several burglaries. The most alarming thing was hearing a 17-year-old pleading for his life and someone still pulling the trigger. Listen to the tapes after the click:
Note: Some of these recordings contain vulgarity and scenes that some readers may find disturbing.
At the time of the shooting, Trayvon was staying in The Retreat at Twin Lakes with his father and his father’s fiancee to wait out a 10-day suspension from school. His family declined to say why the boy had been suspended, but said it wasn’t for anything violent or criminal. Trayvon had left his father’s house, where he was watching the NBA Allstar game, to go to a local 7-11 store, where he bought an iced tea and a bag of Skittles. He was on his way back to the house when Zimmerman spotted him.
According to police, instead of heeding the dispatcher’s warning, Zimmerman said he got out of his SUV to follow Trayvon. At that point, Trayvon came toward him and the two began to fight. Zimmerman said he ended up on the ground, where Trayvon punched him in the face. After yelling for help, Zimmerman said, he pulled his 9 mm gun from his waist band and fired.
Police also said that Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, told them the voice pleading for help was not Trayvon. The family claims the police are lying, and pointed out that once the audio quality was cleaned up the father said that the voice did indeed belong to his son.
A family’s grief, murky details, inconclusive audio, and a state law that makes it difficult for prosecutors to investigate subtleties of self-defense claims has made the situation difficult for police. Even as the 911 tapes fail to provide hard proof of what happened in the moments before the shooting, one central question fuels the discontent: Had the roles been reversed, would Trayvon be walking free?