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Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 04/01/2012

Zimmerman video is the new Zapruder film


The way folks (myself included) are playing and replaying the George Zimmerman police arrival video looking for any and all sorts of clues, it is destined to become this century’s Zapruder film. People have been dissecting the film of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy for decades to prove or disprove what happened Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. And so it is with the surveillance video from the Sanford Police Department.

The Zapruder analogy comes to mind because readers are tearing apart the Zimmerman tape. And they’re doing so because it doesn’t fit the narrative set forth by the killer of Trayvon Martin. Remember, the neighborhood watch volunteer was punched in the face, had his head repeatedly slammed into the sidewalk and was seen by police to have a bloody nose, swollen lip and “bloody lacerations to the back of his head.” Zimmerman’s lawyer even said his client suffered a broken nose. The video not only appears to not support this story line, but also raises serious questions about the police work of the SPD.

‘Where is the blood?’

“I’ve . . . been in a fight with a bully when I was a kid,” wrote one reader to me last week. “I pounded his skull into the ground and he went to the hospital with a skull fracture. [W]here’s the blood[?]” Because none is visible in the SPD video, whose time stamp of 7:52 puts the action at 35 minutes after Zimmerman shot Trayvon, this is the number one question by just about anyone who has seen the full six-minutes. But there were other observations.

“[N]one of the officers (at least one of which comes in direct contact with Zimmerman on the tape) are wearing latex gloves.” noted Ted VanWhy and Robert Morrissey. “Law enforcement officers regularly engage in universal precautions if a suspect or perpetrator has so much as a scratch.” Those blue gloves usually worn by police are to help prevent transmission of blood-borne pathogens, such as HIV.

VanWhy and Morrissey also point out the lack of bandages on Zimmerman’s head or nose, especially since “there would clearly be a risk (merely +/- 30 minutes after the incident) that he may begin bleeding again.” Anita Applehans, who said she used to work in an ER in downtown Detroit, made a similar point on my Facebook page. “[E]ven minor lacerations to the scalp are likely to need stitches — because scalp and face lacerations bleed like crazy & often won’t stop bleeding until stitches or steri-strips are used.”

Jean and Rick Petersen were fixated on the position of Zimmerman’s head. “Not only are there no bandages on his supposedly bloodied or broken nose, but he is repeatedly seen with his head lowered,” they wrote with bold lettering in an e-mail last week. “Anyone with the slightest modicum of knowledge or experience in first aid knows that a bloody nose requires cold, compression and the elevation or backward tilting of the head.”

Applehans also pointed out that “a broken nose produces the classic sign of ‘raccoon eyes,’ deep blue bruising around both eyes.” She also said, “[W]ith any significant head injury, EMTs are going to haul your fanny to the ER immediately — because you can’t SEE a traumatic injury on the outside & EMTs don’t want to get sued if you die from one.”

‘Has the run of the place’

Besides the lack of discernible blood on Zimmerman, what struck me most was the police handling of Zimmerman. They didn’t look like they were dealing with a man who just shot and killed a 17-year-old boy armed with only an iced tea and a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman’s unescorted scoot around the motorcycle (at 1:41 in the video) in particular piqued my interest. There was a familiarity with the facility and with the police that Zimmerman seemed to have that strikes me as problematic.

“Even within the confines of a secured intake area, like with his exit from the patrol car, [Zimmerman] apparently has the run of the place,” reader Tom Jones wrote in an e-mail to me on Thursday, “just walking [wherever] he wants, long way around the motorcycles, without any escort, no one on his arm or behind him!” Mary Schield wrote, “The man has just killed a boy (fact) and the police leave the garage door open for quite some time with Zimmerman nearby while only handcuffed. It’s as if they already determined him to not be a threat (he just killed a kid!!).”

Former New York Police Department detective Eugene O’Donnell expressed the same concern when he and I appeared on MSNBC last week and repeated in an e-mail Sunday afternoon. “Mr. Zimmerman was being investigated for a shooting and appeared to be in police custody, handcuffed and not free to leave,” O’Donnell wrote. “He should have been closely escorted inside the facility. There was a casualness displayed that the police are trained to avoid (though they don’t always do so).”

Evidence contamination?

Zimmerman, a look of tidiness for someone who is said to have endured a life-or-death struggle, is a walking crime scene. Yet, the police touch and search his red-and-black jacket without gloves (0:51). Not only that, the officer looks at his right hand and wipes it on his uniform pants (1:11).

Now, look at what happens at 4:09 in the video as they walk into the police station. Zimmerman wipes his feet on the mat inside the door. Forensic video expert Grant Fredricks highlighted this during an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell last Thursday. “Normally, at a crime scene if we arrest somebody at a homicide scene, we’re going to be bagging their hands. We’re going to be bagging their feet or seizing their shoes, not allowing them to walk around,” he said. “And I do note as he walks away from the carport area and into the building, he actually . . . wipes his feet off on the mat of the police department. Now, those shoes contain evidence.”

Conspiracy theories

And just like the Zapruder film, the Zimmerman tape has already fostered some conspiracy theories. For instance, the subject line of an e-mail from Melva Owens read in all caps, “CRITICAL OBSERVATION REGARDING THE VIDEO OF ZIMMERMAN TRANSPORT TO THE POLICE STATION.”

Please revisit the video tape of Zimmerman being frisked by the police before entering the police station. I’ve played the video in slow motion numerous times and it appears that the police took an object out of Zimmerman’s back pocket and placed it in his (the police’s) front pocket.
Those viewing the video are saying that it looks as if the policeman came into contact with Zimmerman’s wet clothing and that was the reason the police wiped his hands on his pants after checking Zimmerman’s back pocket.
However, no one is commenting on the fact that there appears to be something black in the policeman’s hand as he slides his hand down the front of his pants and immediately slips his hand into his front pocket.
If you can [examine] the video frame by frame, it may become clear that the police seems to have something black in his hand after frisking Zimmerman’s back pocket. I was thinking perhaps it was a pocket knife.
I could be wrong but it would be interesting to see a frame-by-frame enhancement of this suspicious maneuver.

It all sounds so far-fetched. But jumping to such conclusions is to be expected given the myriad questions raised by the actions of the Sanford Police Department and given that nothing in this case makes sense more than a month after the killing of Trayvon Martin. That’s why what’s needed, now more than ever, is to move the case of George Zimmerman from the court of public opinion to a court of law where real evidence rules the day.

By  |  06:00 PM ET, 04/01/2012

 
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