Monday, March 26, 2012

Hold on a minute before any one starts that race war...

George Zimmerman told police Trayvon Martin beat his head into pavement

Leaked police report details shooter's account, as family spokesman reveals Martin had school suspension for marijuana

Matt Williams

The Florida neighbourhood watch volunteer who killed Trayvon Martin told police that the teenager punched him to the ground and began pounding his head into the pavement, it has emerged.

Martin was shot dead a month ago by George Zimmerman, who had called 911 to say he had spotted the teenager acting suspiciously in his gated community. Martin, 17, was returning to his father's girlfriend's house from the local convenience store armed only with iced tea and a packet of Skittles.

Details of Zimmerman's account came as a spokesman for Martin's family disclosed that he was serving a suspension from his school in Miami after traces of marijuana residue were found in his book bag. "We maintain that regardless of the specific reason for the suspension, it's got nothing to do with the events that unfolded on February 26," Ryan Julison said.

Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said Monday that unnamed investigators were trying to destroy her son's reputation. Sanford police say it's possible the information was leaked to the media, but it was not authorised.

"They've killed my son, and now they're trying to kill his reputation," she said.

The attorney for the Martin family says the suspension has no bearing on whether neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman should be charged for fatally shooting Martin on Feb. 26. The 28-year-old Zimmerman claims Martin attacked him and he fired in self-defense.

"Even in death, they are still disrespecting my son," added Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father. "And I feel that is a shame."

Despite a growing national outcry, Zimmerman, 28, has not spoken publicly about the incident. But the Orlando Sentinel newspaper has obtained a leaked copy of the account he gave police in which he claims the teenager was the aggressor.

He told officers that he had followed the teenager but had lost sight of him. He was then walking back to the vehicle when Martin approached him from the left rear and they exchanged words.

Martin, according to Zimmerman's evidence, then asked him if he had a problem. The older man told police that he replied no and started to reach for his cellphone but Martin said, "Well you do now," or something similar and punched Zimmerman in the face.

When Zimmerman fell, he claimed, the teenager got on top of him and started slamming his head into the ground, prompting him to shout for help.

Tapes of the 911 calls from neighbours caught these cries for help, and Martin's family have been adamant that they came from Trayvon as Zimmerman attacked. But Zimmerman in turn claims it was him. According to the Sentinel, police say their evidence backs this account. One eyewitness has said he saw the teenager on top of Zimmerman.

It was only then that the neighbourhood watchman pulled out a gun and shot Martin in the chest at close range, Zimmerman's reported account claims.

Sanford Police refused to comment on the story, saying only that it could not "confirm or deny" the account.

Pressure on authorities to arrest the shooter intensified on Monday as thousands of protestors prepared to join Martin's parents at a rally in Sanford, Florida.

Police said that up to 10,000 people could take part in the demonstration, which comes exactly one month after the 17-year-old was shot dead in the town by the self-appointed neighbourhood watchman.

It is one of a series of events taking place across the US today to protest the handling of the case and the perceived failure to hold to account the 28-year-old shooter over the youth's death.

Over the weekend, prayer vigils were held in churches across America in memory of Martin.

A number of preachers donned hooded tops in a sign of solidarity with the dead teenager's supporters. He was wearing the garment at the time of the killing.

At the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Eatonville, Florida, Reverend Jesse Jackson told a packed congregation yesterday that "the blood of the innocent has power" in relation to the case.

The veteran activist likened Martin to Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who was mutilated and murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

He also listed the teenager alongside assassinated civil rights leaders Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr, adding that his "martyr" death should be used to draw attention to long-standing issues affecting the black community.

Rev Jackson is expected to attend today's rally and a subsequent town hall meeting in Sanford.

He will be joined at the event by the teenager's parents and fellow civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton.

City authorities are expecting a large turnout at the demonstration, and have cordoned off streets around Fort Mellon Park, which has become a focal point of protest since Martin's death.

A spokeswoman for Sanford police said they had been told that between 4,000 and 10,000 demonstrators will take part in the action.

It is the largest of a series of protests and demonstrations planned for today across the US, including one planned outside the US department of justice in Washington, DC.


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