Sanford, Florida, police answer questions about teen's shooting death
The February 26 death of Trayvon Martin, 17, has sparked allegations of racial profiling and calls for his shooter to be charged.
March 21st, 2012
01:50 PM ET

Sanford, Florida, police answer questions about teen's shooting death

The police chief of Sanford, Florida, has released answers to what he says are frequently asked questions about the February 26 fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager by a neighborhood watch leader, whose freedom following the boy's death has drawn fierce protests.

In a letter on the city's website, City Manager Norton N. Bonaparte Jr. presents the answers from Police Chief Bill Lee. The letter addresses issues such as why George Zimmerman - the man police say shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin - was not arrested, and why he was armed. It also answers why the city police department hasn't released 911 tapes, though readers should be aware the Seminole County Sheriff's Department has done so.

Martin was fatally shot while walking to the house of his father's fiancee in Sanford after a trip to a convenience store. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader, said he killed the teen in self-defense, according to police. Zimmerman, whose family says he is Hispanic and who is described as white in a police report, has not been arrested or charged in the killing of the black teenager.

Below is the text of Bonaparte's letter, which includes Lee's FAQ and answers:

Fellow citizens:

There has been a lot of media attention to the recent incident where George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. This is indeed a tragic situation and has caused a flood of questions and strong emotions from within our community, the region and nation. On behalf of the employees of the city of Sanford, our deepest sympathy and prayers go out to the family and friends of Trayvon Martin. As a father, I can only image the pain Trayvon’s family must be going though. In an effort to continue to be as responsive as possible to the public seeking information on the incident, I have asked Chief Lee to provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this matter. Below are his responses. Please understand that since this is still an ongoing investigation, the Police Department is limited in what information it can publicly release.

The city of Sanford is committed to (ensuring) that justice is served and, therefore, the city of Sanford has contacted the United States Attorney General’s Office for assistance in this matter.

The men and women of the Sanford Police Department extend our heartfelt sympathies to the Martin family. This is indeed a tragic situation. The death of anyone due to violence, especially a 17-year-old young man, is morally appalling. As this incident has generated a lot of media attention, we wanted to provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Why was George Zimmerman not arrested the night of the shooting?

When the Sanford Police Department arrived at the scene of the incident, Mr. Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self-defense which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony. By Florida statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time. Additionally, when any police officer makes an arrest for any reason, the officer MUST swear and affirm that he/she is making the arrest in good faith and with probable cause. If the arrest is done maliciously and in bad faith, the officer and the city may be held liable.

According to Florida Statute 776.032:

776:032  Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of
force. -
(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.

Why the 911 tapes are not yet released?

There are exemptions to the public records laws for active criminal intelligence and for ongoing investigations. In this instance, the 911 calls made by neighbors in the subdivision, and the nonemergency call made by Mr. Zimmerman are all key to the investigation by Sanford Police Department. In consultation with the Office of the State Attorney, the Sanford police department has decided not to release the audio recordings of the 911 calls due to the ongoing investigation.

Many times, specific information is contained in those recordings which is vital to the integrity of the investigation. Should it be revealed, the information may compromise the integrity of the investigation prior to its completion.

Why did Mr. Zimmerman have a firearm in his possession while acting in the role of a neighborhood watch member?

Mr. Zimmerman holds a concealed weapon permit issued from the State of Florida. He is authorized to carry the weapon in a concealed manner wherever Florida Statute dictates. Neighborhood Watch programs are designed for members of a neighborhood to be “eyes and ears” for police and to watch out for their neighbors. They are not members of the Police Department nor are they vigilantes. Training provided by law enforcement agencies to Neighborhood Watch organizations stresses non-contact surveillance of suspicious situations and notifying police of those situations so that law enforcement can respond and take control of the situation.

Mr. Zimmerman was not acting outside the legal boundaries of Florida Statute by carrying his weapon when this incident occurred. He was in fact on a personal errand in his vehicle when he observed Mr. Martin in the community and called the Sanford Police Department.

If Zimmerman was told not to continue to follow Trayvon, can that be considered in this investigation?

Yes, it will; however, the telecommunications call taker asked Zimmerman, “Are you following him.” Zimmerman replied, “Yes." The call taker stated “you don’t need to do that.” The call taker’s suggestion is not a lawful order that Mr. Zimmerman would be required to follow.

Zimmerman’s statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon.

Why was George Zimmerman labeled as “squeaky clean” when in fact he has a prior arrest history?

In one of the initial meetings with the father of the victim the investigator related to him the account that Mr. Zimmerman provided of the incident. At that time the investigator said that Mr. Zimmerman portrayed himself to be “squeaky clean." We are aware of the background information regarding both individuals involved in this event. We believe Mr. Martin may have misconstrued this information.

What about media re-enactments of the shooting incident?

Any media re-enactments of the shooting incident are purely speculation. To date the Sanford Police Department has not released any rendition of the events of the evening to anyone other than the Office of the State Attorney. The renditions we have seen are not consistent with the evidence in this case.

The Sanford Police Department has conducted a complete and fair investigation of this incident. We have provided the results of our investigation to the Office of the State Attorney for their review and consideration for possible criminal prosecution.

Although the Police Department is the target of the troubling questions, let me assure you we too feel the pain of this senseless tragedy that has dramatically affected our community. Therefore, as we move forward and strive to answer the questions that are a point of controversy in the community, we ask for your patience, understanding and assistance in getting the correct information to the community.

Thank you,
Norton N. Bonaparte, Jr., ICMA-CM
City Manager

Post by: ,
Filed under: Florida • Trayvon Martin
soundoff (212 Responses)

    I feel that this crazy this Zimmering is still out free to roam free after taking a little boy life and yes I feel this is racist and Sanford has a racist screwed up police force and I personally feel Mrs Martin pain because in 2005 in Dallas Texas my nephew was killed by a Dallas transit police officer who lied and said my nephew tried to attack her and change her story 5 times my nephew was 15 years old and the office shot in in the neck with a 9mm gun and did nothing but watch him die so to hear aonother little boy was killed really breaks my heart AND GOD WILL SEE THAT THE MARTIN FAMILY GET JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON

    March 25, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mekablu

      omg!!! I'm so sorry for your lost!! Some of These police officer are racist!!! Thats why some become Police officers !!! Who's in our side 😥

      March 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Courtney

      I am outraged that Sanford Police (Jim Crowe) has not arrested Zimmerman. So many people are blind to the racism that still exists today, but for the African American population we are too often reminded of the hatred that exists towards blacks in the US. Sanford Police have made it well known to me and hopefully millions of others following this story, that racism does not only exist in people but it also exists in governmental agencies intended to protect ALL of our freedoms. Zimmerman must be arrested and Sanford Police should be thoroughly investigated and legal actions taken against them!!!!

      March 27, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • GH

      People like you need not speak until all facts are out...this 'adult' teen is not innocent and neither is zimmerman, but Sanford is a typical town who judges incorrectly without knowing the whole story or truth...Sharpton and the other iodiot, Jackson should mind thier own worthless business instead of causing a worse case scenerio...they are the cause of half the racism in the USA....they are out-right IDIOTS!!!

      March 28, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tom Painter

    Did anyone ever think maybe the kid was standing his own ground and this caused the shooter to become angry and shot him.Sounds to me the boy was being stalked by this man.

    March 26, 2012 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. Terri

    Beautifully said, Jamie. I could not agree more.

    March 26, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. DIane

    The problem with a lot of these stories circulating is that they are not true. You asked what this kid was doing out at 2am. It was 7:14 that cellphone records show the "kid on the phone with his girlfriend. The police arrived at 7"17 and the boy was dead. The three minute window is one in itself that tells a story of who is telling the truth.

    March 27, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mother

    This whole thing is heartbreaking. Parents lost their son because some bored, nosey man saw a black teen in his neighborhood. Neighborhood watch means no weapons, no force, you are not the police. I look forward to following this trials. Lives and livelihoods. Everyone that tried to hide the wrong done to this child should be delivered to hell in a hand basket.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. Scottish Mama

    Alert Now they say an investigator has come forward and he has said he was turned down when he wanted to arrest Zimmerman, it does not say who stopped him though.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. j.spike

    I would not have guessed that there were so many racist anti Hispanics ?? and you probably criticised Arizona for their anti Illegal Immigration House Bill 1070. Talk about Hippocrites.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bobo

    The police

    I think that the police chief and his captain should have been fired for cover up.The entire Sanford police Dep should be
    replaced.Some white people always used Al Sharpton name when there there is situation like we have now about Trayvon,if Al Sharpton doesn't stand up to make some noise who will.They to see an uncle Tom like Ron Williams,Helder,Armstrong,but not Jessie and Al Sharpton.Black people in this country should wake up and see the light,not to forget the majority of white people in this country would like to see Slavery to come back,people like Sarah Pelin and Rush Lambough.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ms Tee

    I feel so bad for that family and all know if we see someone with a gun your going to back off, better yet try and get the hell out of there. I think they should give all the police that were involved a lie detector test because it seem that the code of silence in Sanford Police has went in effect. And for them to put on the police report that he is WHITE, he tricked them he is HISPANIC. I know one of the Sanford Police Officers, has a conscience and a heart and will do the right thing and tell the truth.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tatyana

    I think the reason this situation happen because zimmerman was a race thang and he wanted to make it seem like he was an armed man

    March 30, 2012 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  11. edward ryder

    there is a sense of relief.all anyone ever wanted was for george zimmerman to be arrested and for the courts to decide if he acted in self-defense,now lets let the wheels of justice turn.

    April 12, 2012 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. edward ryder

    my prayers for the martin family.Trayvon's death will not be in vain.

    April 12, 2012 at 5:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. edward ryder

    this whole mess is caused by this stand your ground, laaw which is an opportunity for any criminal of gang-bangerf to shoot someone and as long as no one else is around can shoot and kill someone and call it self defense,even the crafter of this law said that zimmerman used this law wrongly and stand your greound,did not apply in rhis matter,he didn't stand his ground,he pursued.this law should be repealed,what was wrong with the old law?this law is stupid,and the very nature of it is going to draw the wrong element,to hide behind away with it...

    April 12, 2012 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. edward ryder

    i was wondering where lord mithras and his devicive comments was,since george zimmerman has been charged...

    April 12, 2012 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9