April 9, 2012
The Story Unravels: New Questions about Trayvon Martin's Final HourBy Jeff Lipkes
It was a fable for our times:
Once upon a time, a nice young man set off from his dad's fiancée's home before the NBA All-Star game to buy some Skittles and Arizona Tea for his stepbrother. Although the lad was seventeen, he looked like a cute twelve-year-old. Along came a burly ex-con racist vigilante who didn't like the idea of a young African-American male walking around his gated community at night. The cop-wannabe stalked the frightened boy, cornered him, and then shot him. But the racist police didn't arrest the murderer. The conscience of the nation was stirred. Protests erupted from coast to coast. The gunning down of young, unarmed black males by white Rambos -- and the occasional "white Hispanic" -- is an all-too-common occurrence in the US of A.
Now the MSM narrative is unraveling, thanks to Al Gore's nifty invention, the internet. The average MSNBC viewer may not have the smarts and curiosity to do a Google search, but other people do. A lot of the searches wind up at the sites of the Orlando Sentinel and the city's Fox affiliate, Channel 35, both of which have provided good coverage.
Now other local papers are running stories about the "complexity" of the case.
We've learned a little more about Trayvon Martin. Since his record of suspensions and his posts and pictures, with tats and grill, from his Myspace and Twitter accounts surfaced on the web, columnists are less likely to enthuse about him, as a WaPo blogger did on March 18:
"So what?" the left responds. The fact that he "experimented" with marijuana at a school with zero tolerance -- and maybe experimented with burglary -- and was intrigued by gangsta argot and gangsta values -- has no bearing on the events of February 26. But of course it does. We are being asked to chose between two stories:
As for the killing itself, those who are curious know that the only eyewitness who called 911 reported that Martin was on top of Zimmerman, pummeling him. Zimmerman was crying out for help. The witness ran upstairs, heard a shot, and saw the guy who was on top dead on the ground. Zimmerman himself reported that the teenager suddenly confronted him and, after a brief exchange, decked him with one punch. Martin got on top of Zimmerman and began slamming his head against the concrete. The physical evidence corroborated the stories of the neighborhood watch captain and of "John": Zimmerman's back was wet and had grass stains, and he had a broken nose and lacerations on the back of his head. "I was yelling for help and no one came," he told police.
Recently, Zimmerman's father was interviewed by Fox 35, and later by Hannity. He and family and friends who listened to the tape were positive that the voice screaming for help was his son's, he said, and he disclosed a further detail: as George was trying to squirm from the sidewalk onto the grass, his gun was exposed in his waistband. Martin saw it, his father reported, and said to Zimmerman something like "you're going to die tonight" or "you're going to die now." The nineteen-minute interview on 35 is worth listening to in its entirety.
A few days ago I wrote about how little interest there seems to be on the part of the media in reproducing maps of the crime scene. The explanation is pretty simple: looking at a map while listening to the phone call raises some awkward questions about Martin's final five minutes. Some individuals have produced even more detailed maps than the one published by the Sentinel.
According to the audio released by the police, after Martin stared at Zimmerman and began to approach him, the teen took off in the opposite direction, toward the rear entrance of the community and toward the apartment he was staying in. The distance from where Zimmerman began his call, near the mailboxes by the clubhouse, to the apartment of Brandy Green, where Martin was staying, is roughly 850 feet. Someone in good shape could probably run the distance in less than a minute and walk it in two. From the start of Zimmerman's phone call, Martin had about six minutes to get home. But the teenager was apparently not interested in returning to the apartment of his dad's fiancée and reporting the suspicious man to 911. He was shot about 550 feet from where Zimmerman began his call, about 300 feet from Brandy Green's apartment.
As to what happened in the interval between the end of Zimmerman's call and the first 911 call reporting a fight, Dan Linehan offers some plausible speculations, based on what Martin's father Tracy reported being told by the lead investigator and on Martin's girlfriend's account of her conversation with him. (This conversation was not reported until March 20, twenty-three days after the shooting, leading skeptics to claim that it may have originally included some incriminating statements.)
Then there's the matter of what Martin was up to when Zimmerman spotted him. According to the watch captain in his call to the police, the teenager was wandering around aimlessly, staring at the homes, looking like "he was up to no good or on drugs." He was between the rows of townhouses, not walking down the sidewalk. According to the media's scenario, Martin was striding home from the 7-Eleven, clutching the Skittles and the can of tea.
What about the trip to the 7-Eleven? Some people have speculated that Martin didn't even go there, that "Skittles" and "tea" were code words for drugs. But Zimmerman does report him holding something, and apparently the can and candy were removed from the crime scene. The story about the Skittles originated with the lawyer for the Martin family, Benjamin Crump. A spokesman for the law office confirmed that the information came from Martin's girlfriend, and also, he believed, from a call to Tracy Martin. The law office hadn't corroborated their account by looking at security camera tapes or at an electronic receipt from the store.
But a video does exist. The public relations director of 7-Eleven told me that, according to the company's manager of security, a store camera captured an African-American male (she wouldn't commit to "young") purchasing a bag of Skittles and a can of tea (she wouldn't say that it was "Arizona" tea). The hard disk with the video was removed after the story broke, and it has been subpoenaed by investigators for the state and/or county. The company has not made it available to the media. The public relations director could not specify the exact time of the purchase but said it was between 6:00 and 6:30.
The 7-Eleven, according to maps.google, is 0.8 miles from the entrance to The Retreat at Twin Lakes, a 16-minute walk. There is not much to see or do on Rinehart Road on a Sunday night, and it was raining hard. Even if he was not bringing the tea and Skittles to his stepbrother but was eating and sipping en route, Martin should have arrived back at his dad's fiancée's place before 6:50, and much earlier if he left the store closer to 6:00 than 6:30. According to logs (now deleted from the department's website), Zimmerman called the Sanford police at 7:09:34.
Just as Martin did not go straight home after he first spotted the neighborhood watch captain, so, too, he apparently did not go directly to Brandy Green's apartment from the 7-Eleven. What exactly he was doing between the time he entered the gated community and the moment Zimmerman noticed him will probably never be known. Though there may be some plausible explanation for his behavior, the idea that he was simply returning from a selfless errand when he caught Zimmerman's eye seems less and less likely.