The Washington Post

Zimmerman caught on tape: The screams

In the 911 calls to the Sanford Police Department in the final seconds before George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, you can hear the bloodcurdling screams of someone pleading for help. Martin’s mother, Sabrina Fulton, told Anderson Cooper back in March, “That’s my baby’s voice. Every mother knows their child and that’s his voice.” At the Friday bail hearing for his son, Robert Zimmerman listened to one of the calls and told the court, “It was definitely George’s.”

Zimmerman has maintained from the start that he repeatedly screamed for help during the confrontation. But during a final meeting with detectives Christopher Serino and Doris Singleton on Feb. 29, Zimmerman made a startling comment: “It doesn’t even sound like me.”

That Feb. 29 meeting was the one in which Serino and Singleton probed inconsistencies in what Zimmerman said in the unredacted version of his non-emergency call and what he told Singleton hours after the shooting. The detectives then played one of the 911 calls (scroll to 16:42) placed during the confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin.

“You hear that voice in the background? That’s you,” Serino said. “Are you hearing yourself?”

“It doesn’t even sound like me,” Zimmerman said.

“That’s you,” Serino repeated.

They then listen to the call until the fatal gunshot. Serino asked Zimmerman about his assertion that Martin put his hands over his nose and mouth. “He smothered you, correct?” Serino asked. “At what point did he smother you? Was it right before you shot him?” Zimmerman can be heard saying faintly that he doesn’t remember. Serino played the call again.


“Yes, sir,” Zimmerman said.

“And you were able to reach into your holster,” Serino inquired.

“Yes, sir.”

“You shot him at point-blank range,” Serino said. “He was on top of you, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

Serino noted that during the yelling “nobody came out to help you and I can’t pinpoint where you were smothered. That’s the problem I’m having. And nobody’s sayin’ they saw him smothering you. People are sayin’ they saw him on top of you, but they didn’t see the smothering part.”

Singleton pointed out that the screaming is continuous and that if Zimmerman were being smothered it should stop. “[W]e don’t hear it stop.”

“We don’t hear him at all, either,” Serino added. “Is he being quiet? Is he whispering to you or something? Is he calm?”

“He’s angry,” Zimmerman said.

“I don’t hear him, though,” Serino responded.

Singleton asked if Martin was showing anger. “He’s on top of me and he’s telling me, ‘Shut the [expletive] up! Shut the [expletive] up!”

Serino raised a good point. Why don’t we hear Trayvon? Why don’t we hear “Shut the [expletive] up!” as loudly as we hear the heart-wrenching screams for help?

Still, the question remains: Who was screaming? Two forensic voice identification experts consulted by the the Orlando Sentinel in March said it wasn’t Zimmerman. But a FBI analysis of the voices was inconclusive. Which should not be a big surprise, I suppose. After all, even Zimmerman seemed not to believe it was his own voice.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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