Source: Zimmerman says Trayvon circled his SUV, frightened him George Zimmerman told investigators that while he was on the phone with a Sanford police dispatcher reporting Trayvon Martin as suspicious, the teenager was circling his vehicle on foot, a source familiar with the investigation told the Orlando Sentinel.
The source said Zimmerman's account of events hasn't changed in his several statements to police — in which he said he was so unnerved by the teen's behavior that he rolled up his window to avoid a confrontation. However, he never mentioned any of that while talking to the dispatcher.
The details revealed by the source provide new insight into what Zimmerman said happened in the earliest moments of his contact with Trayvon. And they may reveal the inconsistencies alluded to by prosecutors in the case. One of those inconsistencies: Zimmerman told police Trayvon had his hand over Zimmerman's mouth during their fight on the night he shot Trayvon. The Sentinel's source confirmed that Zimmerman's statements include that allegation.
But authorities do not believe that happened, the source told the Sentinel, because on one 911 call, someone can be heard screaming for help. If it were Zimmerman, as he claims, his cries were not muffled, the source said. Zimmerman also told police, the source told the Sentinel, that while the two were on the ground, Trayvon reached for Zimmerman's gun, and the two struggled over it. Those portions of Zimmerman's account are not corroborated by other evidence, the source said. Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, said he hasn't yet seen his client's statements to police, and it would be inappropriate for him to address specific evidence in the case. "It's hard for me to even comment on it," O'Mara said. Sanford Spokesman Sgt. David Morgenstern said the police department "cannot make any comments on anything related to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case." Reached in Birmingham, Ala., Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said Thursday that Zimmerman's claim that he was screaming in the 911 call and that his mouth was covered by the teen don't add up. "[Trayvon's father] Tracy Martin told me that that's what [police] told him," Crump said, of Zimmerman making those statements to police. "It's either one or the other, it can't be both," Crump said. "We have to put together this puzzle because, unfortunately, we don't have Trayvon Martin's version" of events. A spokeswoman for Special Prosecutor Angela Corey declined to comment. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon in a Sanford gated community on Feb. 26. Zimmerman told police he acted in self-defense. Critics say he is guilty of racial profiling and killing an innocent teenager. In an audio recording of Zimmerman's call to police that night, Zimmerman says Trayvon is acting suspiciously and describes him as a black teenager when prompted by the dispatcher. He does not say that Trayvon was circling his vehicle, but that's what he told police later that night and has consistently told authorities in subsequent interviews, according to the Sentinel's source.
Here, according to that source, is the sequence that Zimmerman provided: Zimmerman spotted Trayvon, called a nonemergency police number and began describing the teenager. While he was doing that, Trayvon came toward his vehicle and began to circle it. Zimmerman, though, never described that to the dispatcher. At one point, about halfway through the four-minute call, he told the dispatcher,
"Now he's just staring at me. … Now he's coming towards me. He's got his hand in his waistband. … He's coming to check me out." Trayvon then disappeared, Zimmerman later told authorities, according to the source, and while Zimmerman was still on the phone, he parked his vehicle, got out and began trying to find Trayvon on foot. Zimmerman can be heard huffing and puffing on the call to police
. "Are you following him?" the dispatcher asks. "Yeah," Zimmerman said. "We don't need you to do that," the dispatcher says. Zimmerman later told investigators he could not find Trayvon, so he turned and was walking back toward his SUV. A short time later, Trayvon approached him from the rear, and the two exchanged words, he told authorities. Trayvon threw the first punch, he told police. It knocked Zimmerman to the ground, and the teenager then got on top of Zimmerman and began beating his head against a sidewalk, police have said in recounting Zimmerman's version of events.
At an April 20 bond hearing in Sanford, Dale Gilbreath, an investigator for Special Prosecutor Angela Corey, testified that Zimmerman told authorities he was frightened because Trayvon circled him while he sat in his SUV. Gilbreath described that as one of the inconsistencies in Zimmerman's story — because getting out of the vehicle and looking for the teen is not the act of someone who is afraid. Gilbreath did not testify that Zimmerman claimed the circling happened while he was on the phone with the dispatcher.
Gilbreath also testified briefly about Zimmerman telling police that Trayvon had his hand over Zimmerman's mouth during the fight. Several audio experts who have analyzed the 911 tapes for the Sentinel and other news outlets have said they believe it is Trayvon's voice — not Zimmerman's — crying out for help. However, Gilbreath testified that similar identification attempts by law enforcement were fruitless.