911 Tapes Tell Chilling Tale of Sanford Killing

Following international media attention, the Sanford Police Department released the 911 call recordings concerning the shooting of Trayvon Martin. (Photo: Flickr.)

By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

You can hear a faint voice cry “help.” You can hear the booming sound of a gunshot.

You can hear the alleged shooter tell a radio dispatcher, minutes earlier, that he had spotted “a real suspicious guy” who “looks like he’s up to no good,” then add, “These assholes, they always get away.”

The dispatcher asks: “Are you following him?”

“Yeah.”

“OK, we don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher says.

That advice went ignored.

The release of 911 recordings makes many things clearer about the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford.

The 17-year-old black youth from Miami, visiting his father in a gated community in the central Florida city, was taking a break from watching the NBA All-Star Game on the night of February 26 when he was killed by a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, a Latino, has claimed self-defense in a scuffle with Martin. He has not been charged with any crime.

The tapes, released over the weekend under public pressure, indicate strongly that it was Zimmerman who instigated a confrontation with the teen, who was carrying nothing more dangerous than a bag of Skittles, just purchased from a nearby 7-Eleven.

Florida was the first state to have adopted a “stand your ground” gun law, making it legal for residents to use deadly force against a threat without first having to back down from the situation. Since the law’s passage in 2005, the state has seen a spike in justifiable homicides and police officers say it’s made it much more difficult to charge shooters with a crime.

Taking Florida’s lead, 16 more states have adopted similar laws, which are far more lenient than the usual “Castle Doctrine,” which allows people to defend themselves in their homes.

But a “stand your ground” law says a person is justified in defending against a “reasonable” threat. But will juries find it reasonable for an alleged shooter to claim his life was threatened when it was he who initiated the confrontation — following an admonition not “to do that”?

Zimmerman apparently had a reputation for playing cop a little too seriously. According to Huffington Post reporter Trymaine 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 tapes can be heard here:

Call 1: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good.”

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Call 2: “I just heard a shot right behind my house.”

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Call 3: “There’s just someone screaming outside.”

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Call 4: “I just heard gunshots.”

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Call 5: “Someone’s yelling two doors down from me, screaming, hollering, ‘Help! Help! Help!’ ”

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Call 6: “I think someone’s been shot.”

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Call 7: “I can’t believe someone was killed.”

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Call 8: “My brother says someone got shot behind our house.”

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9 Responses to “911 Tapes Tell Chilling Tale of Sanford Killing”

  1. Tenelle clemons says:

    If it was a black person who did this to someone it would be all kind of hell breaking loose so why is it no one stepping up doing the same thing he took this young boys life for no reason he didn’t even get a chance to live yet I think he deserves the death penalty if u ask me .

  2. gloria maria says:

    thank you Lori,I am so hurt,mad,and dis-believe,that the cops did not see that guy is in the wrong.I am so hurt over this matter. I was told that over US,this has been dong before and saying they were threatening.Bless you and other people for your input,it makes such a different. I always thought the police would be fair,not-so, in the last 30 years It’s the same killings, with a fancy law to protect the bad guys. G. Zimmerman in-this case.

    glory maria

  3. KC Vendetta says:

    I understand the initial lack of prosecution due to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. However, it is plain as the nose on my face that this self appointed neighborhood watch fellow should have been arrested as soon as the 911 tapes were reviewed.

    Having been in law enforcement for 38 years…I will say this is NOT a “stand your ground” issue. This is a tragic event where police find themselves inundated with “wannabe cops” that shouldn’t even own a weapon!

    It’s my sincerest hope that the public doesn’t lose all confidence in law enforcement just because of this one police agency’s failure to step up and do the right thing!

  4. maureen says:

    I’m very upset about the injustice this family is going through. I’m glad to see that the chief has resigned. I hope that justice will be done for this family,as well as others. My thoughts and prayers are with the Martin family.

  5. je says:

    I think if nothing happens I will be pissed off and it will be a riot.. Not just because this boy was black, because the law is doing nothing about whats right! I’m already mad about the recent disappointment with the Casey Anthony case, this is just going to add the match to the fire!! Justices needs to be served or else the people will serve it for you!!!!!

  6. brenda says:

    There needs to be justice for this family and Trayvon. He was not armed and Zimmerman was 100 pounds more than Trayvon. There was absolutely no reason to shoot this boy at all. If you let Zimmerman get by with this then it will be like Casey Anthony all over again. So sick of so called grown ups killing kids for no reason at all. This needs to stop NOW. IT only takes a little bit of common Spence to see that this was MURDER NOT SELF DEFENCE.

  7. Jrocket says:

    I am so sad that this happened. There did not need to be a loss of life. It is a tragic accident. We have had suspicious people in our own neighborhood and have had a series of robberies. The suspicious people are women talking on cell phones. We have followed and approached them and asked them what they are doing. They have responded without violence. If they had responded violently I would think I had a right to defend myself. If they started to run, I would call 911 and try to follow so I could tell the police their location. Because the victim in this case is a young black mail the Trayvon story becomes different and about racism.

  8. Jrocket says:

    *male

  9. torrente 3 says:

    Much is considered and discussed the crimes committed
    through the aborigines against the white man, nonetheless
    it should be remembered the blacks were given great provocation.
    After targeting about two minutes and a half, he pulled the trigger.
    He told Mother that his two black boys became very nasty the evening after
    we left their camp; they yelled and sang during most in the
    night.

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