The lead Sanford police investigator in the death of Trayvon Martin told the FBI that George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch leader charged with murder in Martin's death, profiled the unarmed teen because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, not because he was black, according to newly released documents.
In the documents, Sanford police Investigator Christopher Serino said he believes Zimmerman followed Martin because of the teen's attire, not his skin color.
Serino told the FBI that gangs in Sanford, referred to in the community as "goons," typically dressed in black and wore hoodies, prompting Zimmerman to follow Martin, who was not a gang member.
Serino described Zimmerman as overzealous and having a "little hero complex," but not a racist. After reaching out to sources in the white supremacist community, Serino said no organized racists knew of Zimmerman.
Serino told the FBI he suspected many of the “leaks” about the case were coming from fellow Sanford police officers who were “pressuring him to file charges against Zimmerman (while) Serino did not believe he had enough evidence at the time to file charges.”
The FBI was tasked with looking into whether Zimmerman racially profiled Martin to see if the teen's civil rights were violated.
Sanford police officers gave conflicting accounts about Zimmerman's injuries in the minutes after he fatally shot Martin, who was 17 years old.
Documents show that some officers thought Zimmerman's nose was broken, but others didn't. The officers agreed that Zimmerman, 28, had cuts on the back of his head.
The degree of Zimmerman's injuries could be important in his claim of self-defense. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting.
Serino also told the FBI he thought Zimmerman’s claim of being attacked by Martin appeared “scripted.” Serino said Zimmerman “knew the right things to say to police” about fearing for his life and acting in self defense, the FBI agents noted.
The documents also provide an account of Martin's activities with his cousin the day before the shooting and show crime scene photos.
There was no information in the newly released documents that directly dispute Zimmerman's story that he shot Martin after the teen started a physical confrontation.
Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after the shooting, and during that time, he purchased a handgun and ammunition to protect himself, the documents show. The delay triggered protests across the nation and the departure of Sanford's police chief.
The information released Thursday was already provided to Zimmerman’s attorney, former Local 6 News legal analyst Mark O’Mara.
That includes statements from a former girlfriend who accused him of domestic violence (which resulted in an injunction but no criminal charges) and an interview with a state beverage agent who claimed Zimmerman battered him as he tried to arrest someone else for underage drinking. Zimmerman entered a pretrial diversion program for that misdemeanor charge and the case was dismissed after he successfully completed the program.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense. He was released on bond for a second time last week and is currently in a safe house at an unknown Seminole County location while awaiting trial.
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