SANFORD, Fla. — Police have released audio 911 tapes in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager allegedly killed by a neighborhood watch captain while walking home from a store.
In eight chilling recordings, made the night of February 26, listeners can hear the frightened voices of neighbors calling to report screams for help, gunfire and then that someone was dead.
In perhaps the most disturbing of the recordings, a frightened voice in the background cries out for help and pleads "No! No!" and then continues to wail.
And for the first time, we hear the voice of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who admitted to police that he shot Martin, who was walking home from a convenience store to his father's home in the gated community. Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged in the shooting.
Editor's Note: The following recordings and their transcriptions below contain strong language that some readers may find objectionable.
"This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something," Zimmerman tells the 911 operator. "He's just staring, looking at all the houses. Now he's coming toward me. He's got his hand in his waistband. Something's wrong with him."
Zimmerman described Martin as wearing a hoodie and sweatpants or jeans. He continues: "He's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is. Can we get an officer over here?"
"These assholes always get away," he says to the operator. Zimmerman is then heard giving directions to the dispatcher. "Shit, he's running," Zimmerman says.
"Are you following him?" the dispatcher asks.
"Yes," Zimmerman responds.
"We don't need you to do that," the dispatcher says.
In other recordings, callers tell the 911 dispatcher that someone has been shot. One person tells the dispatcher that two guys were wrestling behind his back porch and that one of them was yelling for help. Then the male caller stammers in shock. "I'm pretty sure the guy is dead ... Oh, my God! ... The black guy looks like he's been shot and he's dead."
"The guy on top has a white T-shirt," another caller said.
"Is he on top of someone?" the operator asks.
"Mmmhmmm," a female caller responds.
Yet another caller says, "Someone was screaming 'Help! help! help!' Then I heard a gunshot."
One caller, a teenage boy, said that as he was walking his dog, "I saw a man laying on the ground that needed help. He was screaming."
Then, he told the operator, he heard a gunshot and said the screaming stopped.
Martin's family and their attorneys were allowed to hear the audio before it was made public.
"You hear a shot, a clear shot, that we can only assume is a warning shot," said Natalie Jackson, a family attorney. "Then a 17-year-old boy is begging for his life. Everything tells me that that was Trayvon Martin."
Tracy Martin, the teenager's father, broke down crying as he listened to the audio on Friday, the family lawyers said. "My son was crying for help, and he still shot him," Tracy Martin, the teenager's father said, according to Benjamin Crump, another family attorney.
The local state attorney is reviewing the investigation and will decide whether to prosecute the volunteer watchman.
Police in Sanford initially told Martin's family that Zimmerman had not been arrested because he had a "squeaky clean" record, according to Tracy Martin. Zimmerman had been arrested in 2005 on charges of resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer, according to court records. Those charges were later dropped.
"Do we really believe that if Trayvon Martin would have pulled the trigger, he would not be arrested?" said Crump. "This is obviously a cover-up, and we need a sweeping overhaul of the Sanford Police Department."
Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett said he spent Thursday meeting with the state attorney's office discussing the release of the tapes. "It was as simple as us saying, 'We're going to do this, what do you think?'" Triplett told HuffPost.
Earlier Friday, Triplett met with Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), Police Chief Bill Lee and city manager Norton Bonaparte to discuss the 911 recording.
The police chief serves at the pleasure of the city manager. Bonaparte was asked by HuffPost whether the furor jeopardizes Lee's job. "We're reviewing all of our options at this point," he said, adding that he currently sees "no reason" to remove Lee.
Zimmerman had been the subject of earlier complaints by residents of the gated community in which he and Martin's family lived. At an emergency homeowner's association meeting earlier this month, "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 wrote in an email to HuffPost. "It was also made known that there had been several complaints about George Zimmerman and his tactics" in his neighborhood watch captain role.
The case has drawn national attention and has outraged many residents of Sanford, a town about 20 miles north of Orlando, particularly in the African-American community. Many have suggested a history of strained relations between the police department and blacks.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Martin, not Zimmerman, was arrested in 2005. We regret this error.
BEFORE YOU GO
04/30/2012 3:14 PM EDT
George Zimmerman defense team launches social media campaign.
The defense team for George Zimmerman, the man charged with murdering unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, has launched a new website, Facebook and Twitter account designed to dispute misinformation and provide "a voice for Mr. Zimmerman."
"We understand that it is unusual for a legal defense to maintain a social media presence on behalf of a defendant, but we also acknowledge that this is a very unusual case," Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, wrote on the website, gzlegalcase.com.
O’Mara said that "social media in this day and age cannot be ignored," and that it would be “irresponsible to ignore the robust online conversation” around his client's case.
04/20/2012 3:17 PM EDT
Judge Grants George ZImmerman Bail
A Florida judge has granted bail for George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch captain accused of second-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set Zimmerman's bond at $150,000, but said he would not be released today, pending deliberations about the terms of the release.
The bail hearing featured dramatic testimony from Zimmerman, who took the stand and offered an apology to Martin's parents.
"I wanted to say that I am sorry for the loss of your son," Zimmerman said, adding that he did not know how old Martin was or that he was unarmed.
"I thought he was a little bit younger than I am," he said. "I did not know whether he was armed or not."
04/18/2012 6:23 PM EDT
Judge in case steps down due to concerns over conflict of interest.
The judge who was set to preside over the trial of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin has stepped aside.
Jessica Reckseidler's recusal from the trial comes after Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, suggested that her husband's job as a partner to Mark NeJame, a CNN legal analyst covering the trial, represented a conflict of interest.
NeJame was initially contacted by Zimmerman's family to represent him, but NeJame suggested O'Mara.
The new judge in the case will be Kenneth R. Lester, Jr., who has presided over several much-covered cases, including ordering the release of a schizophrenic woman from a state mental hospital after she was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting deaths of her parents and sentencing an ax murderer to death after he killed a 71-year-old man. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Lester is popular among attorneys and is known for acting quickly.
The judge who would have been next in line to handle the Zimmerman case after Jessica Reckseidler could not take on the case because he had previously worked with O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney.
04/18/2012 6:22 PM EDT
Michelle Obama: Martin's death a 'tragedy.'
First lady Michelle Obama says her "heart goes out to the parents" of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida.
Mrs. Obama says in an interview with NPR that all parents understand "the tragedy of that kind of loss." Martin was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who has claimed self-defense.
The first lady says it's important "not to lose sight of the fact that this is a family that's grieving and there's been a tremendous loss." She says, "we all have to rally around that piece of it."
Police initially didn't charge Zimmerman in the Sanford, Fla., shooting, leading to nationwide protests. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder last week.
04/18/2012 6:18 PM EDT
Scrutiny for Sanford puts cramp on small businesses.
As scores of media personnel and activists descended upon the area, residents and businesses found themselves facing very public scrutiny and a growing fear that the community was harboring a racially hostile environment -- which prompted locals to cut back on their normal routines, including shopping. "There was an air that the community was on the verge of bad activity or violence and that is not the case," Nicholas Mcray, Sanford's director of economic development, said. "There was never any kind of trend of violence, but that was the perception put out by the media."
While it's been weeks since the shooting, the small businesses that make up Sanford's historic downtown continue to suffer, with some businesses seeing up to a 50 percent drop in activity. "A few convenience retailers are seeing a 2 to 3 percent increase, but the downtown area is really taking a hit," Mcray said.
04/18/2012 6:16 PM EDT
ALEC, lobbying group behind Stand Your Ground laws, changes tack.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, the controversial corporate-sponsored lobbying group whose push for "stand your ground" gun laws and voter ID legislation ignited grassroots protests, announced Tuesday that it is getting out of the social policy field to focus on core economic issues.
Corporations associated with ALEC had been under siege from public interest and civil rights groups who demanded they cut ties with ALEC, most recently because of its successful push to pass "stand your ground" legislation in multiple states. Florida's version of that law has been cited as a reason why neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was not initially charged in the deadly shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Several companies -- including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald's, Kraft and Intuit -- had already distanced themselves from ALEC before Tuesday's surprise announcement.
04/11/2012 8:42 PM EDT
George Zimmerman arrives at jail
The Associated Press is reporting that Zimmerman has arrived at jail.
04/11/2012 7:04 PM EDT
George Zimmerman charged with second-degree murder, in custody
Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey announced that George Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder.
According to CNN, Zimmerman turned himself in and has a new attorney, Mark O'Mara. During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, he former employees announced that they had lost contact with Zimmerman and would no longer be representing him in the case.
If convicted, Zimmerman could face life in prison.
04/11/2012 3:06 PM EDT
Reports: Zimmerman to be charged in Trayvon Martin's death.
A day after George Zimmerman's attorneys stepped down because they had lost contact with him, the special prosecutor in the case will bring charges against him, according to reports.
The Washington Post is reporting that special prosecutor Angela Corey will announce charges against Zimmerman for his role in Trayvon Martin's shooting death. Earlier this week, Corey said she would not convene a grand jury in the case. Under Florida law, only grand juries can issue murder charges, which means that Zimmerman will face lesser charges.
04/10/2012 12:55 PM EDT
Police car shot several times near scene of Martin shooting.
Around 4:30 a.m. this morning, an empty police car near the gated community where Trayvon Martin was shot through with bullets several times. The police in Sanford are investigating the crime.
Sanford's police department has come under withering criticism for its handling of the case. Yesterday, a group of student protesters blocked the entrance to the police headquarters, forcing the department to shut down for several hours.