George Zimmerman’s version of events the night he killed Trayvon Martin have never really made sense. And thanks to the release of a treasure trove of audio files last week by his attorney, we get to hear Zimmerman tell police what happened that rainy Feb. 26 night in his own voice. But what you’ll immediately notice is that what he tells the Sanford Police Department while in custody and in subsequent interviews doesn’t exactly match what he said during his infamous call to the non-emergency line at the SPD. You’ll also understand why investigator Christopher Serino, who had problems with Zimmerman’s account from the beginning, sought to arrest him for manslaughter two weeks later.
To refresh your memory, click here to listen to the phone call Zimmerman placed to the SPD. There have been break-ins in the neighborhood and “there’s a real suspicious guy” who “looks like he’s up to no good,” he told the dispatcher. “These [expletive], they always get away,” Zimmerman said before getting out of his car to pursue Martin. When he confirmed he was following the unarmed 17-year-old, the dispatcher said, “We don’t need you to do that.” They discuss where he would meet the police when they arrived.
Now, click here to listen to the Feb. 29 interview Zimmerman had with Serino and investigator Doris Singleton as they probe the inconsistencies in what Zimmerman said in the unredacted version of that non-emergency call and what he told Singleton hours after the shooting. A word of caution: There’s raw language in this conversation. The questions asked by the two detectives are what you would expect from seasoned homicide investigators. But they find Zimmerman’s responses unsatisfactory.
Serino and Singleton peppered Zimmerman with questions as they replayed Zimmerman’s four minute and 12 second call to the SPD’s non-emergency line. Why did he think Martin was suspicious? What did he think Martin was on drugs? Zimmerman would tell them he was afraid. But they focused a lot of attention on why the neighborhood watch captain would pursue Martin , “a good kid,” a “mild-mannered kid,” as Serino would describe him but who Zimmerman said made him fearful because he stared at him and walked around his car.
At one point in the call, Zimmerman says, “Oh [expletive], he’s running.” Serino asked Zimmerman to describe how Martin was running. “I don’t remember ’cause I was on the phone,” he answered. “It happened so quickly.” That was unsatisfactory to Serino. “It sounds like he’s running as to get away from you,” the detective said as he pressed Zimmerman to describe how Martin was running. “I don’t know why,” Zimmerman said in response.
On the call, the dispatcher asked him which way Martin was running. You can hear Zimmerman get out of his car and the detectives asked to confirm if he was getting out to see where Martin was going. “So, you basically jumped out of the car to see where he was going,” Serino inquired. When Zimmerman replied, “Yes, sir,” the investigator replied bluntly, “Okay, that’s not fear, all right. That’s one of the problems I have with the whole thing.”
Another area of contention was when the dispatcher asked Zimmerman, “Are you following him?” Serino asked him, “What went through your mind?” Zimmerman replied, “He’s right.” When Serino said, “You should have went back to your vehicle,” Zimmerman said, “But I still wanted to give [the dispatcher] an address.”
Martin was running in the direction of his father’s fiance’s apartment, where he was staying while on suspension from school. Serino said, “At this point, he’s gotta be hiding from you” because Martin could not have made it home and then come back to attack Zimmerman. Singleton challenged Zimmerman’s entire account for why he got out of his car. “You’re trying to catch up to him,” she said. “You’re looking for him,” Serino added. “It sounds like you’re looking for him.”
“Did you pursue this kid? Did you want to catch him,” Serino asked.
“No,” Zimmerman said, sounding exasperated.
“That’s not you,” Serino said. ‘That’s not what you’re about.”
“No,” Zimmerman said again.
Singleton questioned why at the end of the call, Zimmerman told the dispatcher to have the police call him upon their arrival and he would tell them where he was. “You’re going to be back at your car in less than 15 or 20 seconds from that distance,” she asked, “so why would they need to call you?” Zimmerman said he said this because he was frustrated he didn’t “give an adequate description” of where he was from community clubhouse. “You know what the impression would be,” Singleton said, “is that you’re going to continue to look and when they get here you’ll tell them where you’re at at that point.”
The call would end. Zimmerman and Martin would encounter each other. And Martin would be shot dead at point-blank range. Nothing about this case has made sense, nothing. What the Serino and Singleton interviews on Feb. 29 show is that the detectives didn’t think it made sense either.