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Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Details Are Released in Shooting of Trayvon Martin By SERGE F. KOVALESKI and CAMPBELL ROBERTSON Published: May 17, 2012

When police officers arrived on the scene of the shooting of Trayvon Martin on the rainy night of Feb. 26, they tried frantically to revive the 17-year-old, who had been shot in the chest and was lying motionless behind a row of town houses in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.
Officers administered CPR and “rescue breaths,” and one officer said in a report that he “put gloves on, placed a plastic bag over the wound to the victim’s chest and proceeded to provide chest compression.” He added, “Our efforts were continued until” the Sanford Fire Department “arrived and took over.”

“Briefly thereafter, SFD declared the victim deceased,” the officer’s report said.

These and other details were part of a trove of new documents and photographs released Thursday by the special prosecutor in the case, Angela B. Corey, that form part of the discovery process in the murder case of Mr. Martin. Ms. Corey was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to handle the case, which has galvanized national attention.

George Zimmerman, 28, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged last month with second-degree murder in the case, was apparently known to some members of the Sanford police, according to the documents. He had called the police frequently and had contacted them to set up the neighborhood watch in the Retreat at Twin Lakes, where he lived and where he shot Mr. Martin.

One of the officers to respond to the Retreat arrived there to find “George Zimmerman, in protective custody, which I know to be the head of the neighborhood watch,” the officer stated in a report.

“Zimmerman appeared to have a broken and a bloody nose and swelling of his face,” the report said.

According to a report by another officer, Timothy Smith, the police offered Mr. Zimmerman the chance to be taken to hospital at least three times — at the scene, during the ride to the police station and after arriving at the station — and he declined each time.

Mr. Zimmerman has said that he acted in self-defense the night of the shooting. But with no witness who saw the entire encounter, and with Mr. Martin dead, there has been much debate about whether the evidence supported such a claim.

The documents also stated that after a detailed account of the investigation drawn up on March 13, which included witness interviews and re-interviews, Investigator Christopher F. Serino concluded that “there exists probable cause” to charge Mr. Zimmerman with manslaughter.

Mr. Martin had been visiting other residents of the complex and had been out that rainy evening to go to a nearby store. He was returning with some iced tea and a bag of Skittles when Mr. Zimmerman saw him and considered him suspicious.

Mr. Zimmerman called the police before leaving his vehicle, after which the confrontation occurred.

The documents released Thursday include an autopsy report that showed Mr. Martin had been shot once through the heart at intermediate range. In his pockets were $40.15, the Skittles and a red 7-Eleven lighter. Headphones were found next to him.

A toxicology report performed on Mr. Martin’s body found traces of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his blood and “cannabinoids” in his urine, according to the medical examiner case report. Mr. Martin had been taken by his father to Sanford from his home in Miami Gardens after he was suspended from high school when traces of marijuana were found in an empty baggie in his book bag. Some of the most hotly disputed aspects of the case will only become more contentious with the release of these reports. Though Sybrina Fulton, Mr. Martin’s mother, has said she believes that the voice crying for help on 911 tapes was that of her son, the victim’s father, Tracy, is shown in the reports to have a different opinion.

In a meeting at the Sanford police station on the morning of Feb. 28, police officers played all the 911 calls for Tracy Martin “in order to provide a better understanding to Mr. Martin as to why the individual who shot his son was not arrested and charged with homicide.”

Having played the recordings, Investigator Serino asked Mr. Martin if that was his son’s voice crying for help.

“Mr. Martin, clearly emotionally impacted by the recording, quietly responded ‘No,’ ” the report reads, though it adds that this exchange was not itself audio recorded.

Mr. Zimmerman’s father had told investigators that he believed the voice on the tape was that of his own son, not Mr. Martin.

The cache of documents also said that an F.B.I. agent based in Tampa sent the 911 recordings to an F.B.I. lab to examine two of the most disputed portions of the case: whether Mr. Zimmerman said a racial slur under his breath when he was pursuing Mr. Martin, and which of the two was screaming for help. On both requests, the lab was unable to respond with a definitive answer because of poor sound quality or, in the case of the screams for help, the “extreme emotional state” of the person screaming.

The reports may give rise to other mysteries as well, including the identity of a woman who called another investigator, less than two full days after the shooting.

The woman refused to identify herself or give any callback numbers, but told the investigator that Mr. Zimmerman “has racist ideologies and that he is fully capable of instigating a confrontation that could have escalated to the point of Zimmerman having to use deadly force.”

The police were never able to track her down.

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