Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.
UPDATE: George Zimmerman has not yet spoken publicly about what happened in the moments before he shot and killed Trayvon Martin last month, but the Orlando Sentinel has pieced together his version of events after speaking with unnamed local police officers, who tell the paper much of Zimmerman's account has been corroborated by witnesses.
The big takeaway: Zimmerman says that after he lost sight of Martin, the 17-year-old approached him from behind. The two then exchanged words before Martin punched him in the face and then jumped on top of him, according to Zimmerman, who had followed Martin after reporting him as a suspicious character in a 911 call.
It is not completely clear exactly what parts of Zimmerman's account have been confirmed by independent witnesses. It is also not clear at what point Zimmerman drew his gun.
One detail at the center of the event is who called for help during the physical skirmish between the two men. Zimmerman claims it was him, while others have suggested it was Martin. The Sentinel explains:
Several witnesses heard those cries, and there's been a dispute about from whom they came: Zimmerman or Trayvon. Lawyers for Trayvon's family say it was Trayvon, but police say their evidence indicates it was Zimmerman.
One witnesses, who has since talked to local television news reporters, told police he saw Zimmerman on the ground with Trayvon on top, pounding him and was unequivocal that it was Zimmerman who was crying for help.
You can read the full Sentinel story here.
Meanwhile, Slate's Emily Bazelon offers her take on the new info and what it means here.
[It is] very hard to know what to make of this new information. It’s entirely at odds with the account of Martin’s girlfriend, who says Martin was talking to her on his cell phone just before his death. The girlfriend says she heard Martin ask a man, “What are you following me for,” and that the man answered, “What are you doing here?” Then she heard Martin pushed to the ground. To point out the obvious, the police in Sanford, Fla., where the shooting took place, are the definition of embattled. Their chief resigned last week and the decision not to arrest Zimmerman—based on the belief that he reasonably feared bodily harm or for his life when he shot Martin—is a flashpoint for national outcry. No wonder someone in the department got fed up and leaked facts that support the cops’ decision-making.
For all we know, this new account may be true. We also know Zimmerman had a bloody nose, a swollen lip, and cuts to the back of his head, though he didn’t go to the hospital. But there’s no way to know what to make of his story yet. That’s why we have judges and juries—to sort out disputed facts. And it’s why “Stand Your Ground” laws like Florida’s, which the police have read as discouraging them from bringing charges when there’s a claim of self-defense, are such a terrible idea.
Monday, March 26: Trayvon Martin's parents are scheduled to speak at a town hall meeting on Monday afternoon in Sanford, where they will be joined by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Their appearance comes in the wake of the discovery that George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Martin last month, may have uttered a racial epithet in the lead up to his confrontation with the Florida teen, and as national protests over the local police's decision not to arrest Zimmerman continues to grow.
CNN reports that rallies are planned for Monday in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Houston, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, Memphis, Atlanta and Iowa City.
A civil rights investigation has been opened by the U.S. Justice Department, and a grand jury will consider the evidence in the case on April 10.
Sunday, March 25, at 12:56 p.m.: Friends of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin last month, are starting to come out to defend him. Joe Oliver tells ABC News that Zimmerman was distraught over the shooting and has now gone into hiding, fearing for his life.
"Up until this point, because he was there and he knows what happened, and because he's not in jail, he's been very confident—naively—that this will all blow over,”' Oliver said on Good Morning America.
The fringe New Black Panther Party has reportedly offered a $10,000 bounty for the capture of Zimmerman, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Oliver, who says he has known Zimmerman for a decade, told ABC that the 28-year-old likely said “goon” on the 911 tape rather than “coon” as many people believe. “I don’t know of anyone younger than 40 who uses ‘coon’ as a racial epithet anymore.”
The distinction is important because what he said that night could make the difference in whether authorities will be able to charge Zimmerman with a hate crime, reports the Associated Press. “If that was a racial epithet that preceded the attack on Trayvon Martin, we definitely have a hate crime,” a legal expert says.
Meanwhile, as protests erupt across the country demanding justice for Martin, “the hoodie has emerged as an unlikely symbol,” writes the Miami Herald. Celebrities have joined ordinary citizens posting pictures of themselves wearing hoodies in a show of support for Martin.
Friday, March 23, at 10:55 a.m.: President Obama on Friday offered up his first public comments about the Trayvon Martin case, calling for a thorough investigation into the death of the 17-year-old Florida teen that has sparked protests around the nation.
"I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this happened," the president said outside of the White House. "That means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened as well as the specifics of the incident."
Obama continued: "My main message is to the parents of Trayvon. If I had a son he would look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and we will get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
CNN has the full remarks here.
Friday, March 23, at 10:25 a.m.: Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday appointed a new prosecutor to lead the state's investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin after the local attorney who had been in charge recused himself from the case.
The Associated Press reports that Scott tapped Angela Corey, a state attorney from the Jacksonville area, to take over for Norman Wolfinger, who said his decision to step aside was aimed at "toning down the rhetoric and preserving the integrity of the investigation."
That move came only hours after local Sanford Police Chief Billy Lee temporarily stepped down after receiving a vote of no-confidence from local officials. Both Wolfinger and Lee have been harshly criticized for the local investigation into the Florida teen's shooting death at the hands of a neighborhood watch volunteer who has claimed self-defense.
Both the FBI and the Justice Department are also investigating the case, and a Florida grand jury will decide on April 10 whether to charge George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old.
Meanwhile, CNN reports that a Florida rally calling for Zimmerman's arrest is set to march to the state capitol in Tallahassee on Friday. The march comes one day after a rally in Sanford attracted nearly 8,000 demonstrators, by the Orlando Sentinel's count.
Elsewhere in Slate: Emily Bazelon explains why Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law doesn't prohibit Zimmerman's arrest, and examines whether Martin might have been the one acting in self-defense in the confrontation that led to his death.
Thursday, March 23, at 3:53 p.m.: The local police chief who investigated the death of Trayvon Martin announced Thursday afternoon that he will temporarily step down from his position, the Associated Press reports.
"I do this to return some semblance of calm to the city," Sanford Police Chief Billy Lee said at a press conference. Lee had been criticized after police did not arrest George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed the Florida teen last month.
The move comes one day after the Sanford City Commission issued a vote of no confidence for the police chief, characterizing his investigation into the shooting as "deeply flawed."
Thursday, March 22, at 3:29 p.m.: Here's the latest development that is sure to fuel the outrage over this whole thing: It appears as though George Zimmerman muttered a racial slur to himself while chasing Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen who he shot and killed in what he says was self-defense.
But here's the transcript of what Zimmerman appears to say:
ZIMMERMAN: Shit, he's running.
911: He's running? Which way is he running?
ZIMMERMAN: Down towards the other entrance of the neighborhood.
911: Which entrance is that that he's heading towards?
ZIMMERMAN: The back entrance. [pause] Fucking coons.
Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reports that students at a Miami high school staged what the paper described as a "massive walk out" on Thursday to protest the shooting and the fact that Zimmerman has not been arrested.
News of Martin's death and the circumstances surrounding it have sparked protests around the nation. Local activists have planned their own rally for Thursday evening, which will be led by Al Sharpton, who flew down to central Florida despite his mother's death earlier in the day, the Associated Press reports.
While that rally was originally supposed to be held in a 400-seat church, organizers have moved the event to an outdoor public park in order to accommodate a crowd that is expected to be in the thousands.
The event comes on the heels of Wednesday’s "Million Hoodie March" in Manhattan’s Union Square. Mother Jones has video and photos from the march, which you can view here.
Thursday, March 22: The local police chief who investigated the death of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen whose controversial death has sparked charges of racial prejudice and drawn national attention to the state's self-defense law, may lose his job.
ABC News reports that the Sanford City Commission issued a vote of no confidence for Police Chief Billy Lee during a heated meeting Wednesday night, with three of the panel's five members asking him to step down. It will now be up to the city manager to decide whether Lee keeps his job after the panel characterized his investigation as "deeply flawed."
The no-confidence vote came on the same day as New York City's "Million Hoodie March," a demonstration that marked the increasing outrage over the death of Martin, a 17-year-old African American who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old who identifies as Hispanic, said he shot Martin in self-defense after a confrontation between the two in a gated subdivision in Sanford, just outside of Orlando. Recently released logs of 911 and non-emergency calls Zimmerman placed just before the confrontation indicate that Zimmerman believed Martin, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, looked suspicious. Zimmerman apparently followed Martin despite being told not to by the dispatcher. A confrontation ensued, and Martin was shot and killed.
Although several witnesses heard someone yelling for help in the scuffle between the two men, there's no consensus as to who it was. Zimmerman, backed by the Sanford police, says it was him. Others believe it was Martin.
As Slate's Emily Bazelon explains, Florida's 2005 "Stand Your Ground" law allows Floridians to use deadly force, without attempting to avoid the danger, if they feel threatened. This makes it very difficult to prosecute those who claim they acted in self-defense in the state, even if the alleged aggressor (in this case, Martin) was unarmed.
Both the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and a Florida grand jury are now investigating the case, as the Associated Press reports.
The Root was at the New York march Wednesday, where Martin's parents spoke. They write that the Trayvon Martin case "brought out the worst fears in the black community: that black life is not valued or worth protecting." Martin's parents have also stared a change.org petition calling for Zimmerman's arrest. It now has close to 1 million signatures.