In a week of leaked high school disciplinary records, police reports and police station surveillance video in the war over public perception of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, more details have emerged about Zimmerman’s history of violence.
Zimmerman, the 28-year-old Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin to death last month, was fired from a job securing illegal house parties for “being too aggressive,” according to the New York Daily News, which quoted a former colleague of Zimmerman’s. According to the co-worker, Zimmerman worked for two agencies that provided security for house parties from 2001 to 2005.
“Usually he was just a cool guy,” said the former co-worker, who the newspaper didn't name. “But it was like Jekyll and Hyde. When dude snapped, he snapped.” The Daily News said Zimmerman earned $50 to $100 a night for the parties. He was fired for being too aggressive with patrons.
“He had a temper and he became a liability,” the newspaper quoted the former co-worker as saying. “One time this woman was acting a little out of control. She was drunk. George lost his cool and totally overreacted,” he said. “It was weird, because he was such a cool guy, but he got all nuts. He picked her up and threw her. It was pure rage. She twisted her ankle. Everyone was flipping out.”
The new portrayal of Zimmerman comes as distinctly different images of both Martin and Zimmerman are being floated by people on both sides of the Martin killing. Zimmerman told police he shot Martin Feb. 26 in self defense after being jumped from behind. He has not been charged.
Photos of a fresh-faced, smiling Martin in a Hollister T-shirt helped attract sympathy to his parents' call for justice, as did a 2005 police mug shot of a scowling, overweight Zimmerman photographed after being charged with assaulting a police officer.
This week, stories challenging both portraits emerged. Photos of Martin with removable gold tooth caps and revelations that he was suspended from his Miami high school three times, including once for possessing an empty baggy that school officials said contained marijuana residue, became ammunition for conservative websites and and people sympathetic to Zimmerman.
Law enforcement in Sanford also leaked a police report to the Orlando Sentinel, offering details of Zimmerman's account of the killing for the first time.
The report said Zimmerman told police that Martin attacked him from behind, punched him in the nose, wrestled him to the ground and violently bashed his head on a sidewalk. It was then, Zimmerman told the police, that he pulled out his 9mm handgun and shot Martin in the chest.
Surveillance video from the Sanford police station recorded the night of the shooting, first broadcast by ABC News on Wednesday, showed a clean-shaven and fit-looking Zimmerman being ushered in to the station without visible abrasions, bruises or bloodstains on his clothes, all of which may fail to support his account of a violent death struggle. In addition, the funeral director who handled Martin’s body reported there were no cuts or other marks on the teen's hands that would suggest violent fisticuffs.
In the days after the shooting, Martin’s family said police officers told them Zimmerman had a clean record. But a cursory search of county records showed a 2005 arrest on charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a law enforcement officer. The charges were later dropped.
Also in 2005, Zimmerman was involved in a bitter domestic violence incident with his ex-fiancee, Veronica Zuazo. In that case, Zuazo filed for a restraining order against Zimmerman, who she said snatched her cell phone from her hand and pushed her during an argument. The next day, both filed court petitions accusing the other of violence.
According to the Miami Herald, Zuazo said that three years earlier, Zimmerman attacked her while the two were driving to a counseling session. Zuazo said she popped her gum in his face and he repeatedly smacked her in the face. In January 2002, she added, Zimmerman became enraged that she had come home late. They wrestled and he threw her on the bed, smacking her, according to the newspaper.
In September 2003, Zimmerman called police and reported that another motorist spat on him, according to reports, Zimmerman followed the man in his car until the police arrived. Daniel Osmun, the other driver, told police that Zimmerman was tailgating and that he spit his gum out the window "out of frustration."
Osum said that Zimmerman then pulled alongside of him, and the two argued. In a police report of the incident, Osum said “at one point, he thought Mr. Zimmerman was going to attack him." No charges were filed against either man.
Zimmerman was the self-appointed captain of the neighborhood watch at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, a gated community where Martin was visiting his father and his father’s girlfriend when he was killed. Zimmerman noticed Martin, who was walking home from a store, and called 911 to report the youth as "suspicious." (Zimmerman had called 911 46 times in recent years.) According to 911 recordings the night of the killing, Zimmerman followed Martin against a dispatcher’s recommendation. The police initially said that at one point Martin noticed he was being followed, turned to ask what Zimmerman wanted, and a physical altercation ensued.
Zimmerman was questioned and released by police, who said they lacked evidence to contradict his self-defense claim. The State Attorney’s Office is considering whether to file charges. A grand jury is scheduled to be called on April 10.
Some of Zimmerman’s neighbors said he had a history of being overly aggressive and followed people whom he thought appeared suspicious back to their homes.
At an emergency homeowner’s association meeting on March 1, days after the killing, “one man was escorted out because he openly expressed his frustration because he had previously contacted the Sanford Police Department about Zimmerman approaching him and even coming to his home,” a resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity told HuffPost. “It was also made known that there had been several complaints about George Zimmerman and his tactics" in his neighborhood watch role.
The former co-worker quoted by the Daily News said he had not recently been in touch with Zimmerman, but his latest troubles came as a shock nonetheless.
“He definitely loved being in charge. He loved the power,” he said. “Still, I could never see him killing someone. Never.”