It was January 2011, and the names George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin meant absolutely nothing to the people gathered at a community forum at Sanford City Hall.
Mayor-elect Jeff Triplett called on one of the speakers who signed up to voice his opinion about a controversy then swirling over the police department.
"George Zimmerman, Mr. Zimmerman," Triplett called.
An audio recording of the forum obtained from the city reveals what was heard next, as Zimmerman stepped to the microphone.
"Good afternoon. I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white. It should not and cannot be enforced in the grey for those that are in the thin blue line," Zimmerman said, criticizing the department for failing to arrest the son of a fellow officer for the videotaped beating of a homeless man.
By then, January 8, 2011, the chief had resigned and the city commission and incoming mayor wanted to hear what the community was concerned about as they looked forward, they hoped, to better days.
Little did anyone know that one year later, the department, its new chief and the city would be embroiled in a national outrage over the department's decision not to arrest another suspect: the speaker George Zimmerman.
Referring to the chief who resigned five days earlier, Zimmerman said, "I believe that he’s already forfeited his pension by his illegal cover up ... and corruption and what happened in his department."
Then he described what he said happened when he rode along with a Sanford officer.
"I also have had the opportunity to take ride-alongs with the city of Sanford police department and what I saw was disgusting," Zimmerman said. "The officer showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps, explained to me that he doesn’t carry a long gun in his vehicle because, in his words, 'Anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork and you’re going to find me as far away from it.' He took two lunch breaks and attended a going away party for one of his fellow officers."
In closing, Zimmerman spoke directly to Triplett: "I am aware of how vital it was for your election to secure the Fraternal Order of Police endorsement, but please don’t underestimate the most important endorsement is that of the residents and the constituents of Sanford."
Zimmerman was eventually arrested and charged with second-degree murder after a special prosecutor was appointed. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond awaiting trial.