Tracy Martin recounts police version of son Trayvon’s death

March 28, 2012

A police detective told the father of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin that his son initiated two confrontations with the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot him.

Tracy Martin, describing the police version of events in a meeting Wednesday with Washington Post reporters and editors, said he did not believe the official account, which was conveyed to him two days after his 17-year-old son was killed Feb. 26. The detective’s explanation, as relayed by Martin, largely coincides with recent news reports that George Zimmerman told investigators that he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense.

According to Tracy Martin, the Sanford, Fla., detective recounted this sequence of events: Trayvon Martin walked up to Zimmerman’s vehicle and asked why he was following him. Zimmerman denied following the youth and rolled up the car window. Minutes after Trayvon walked away, Zimmerman got out of his vehicle.

Then came the second encounter, according to Tracy Martin’s recollection of the detective’s account. Trayvon Martin appeared from behind a building in Zimmerman’s gated community, approached him and demanded, “What’s your problem, homie?”

When Zimmerman replied that he didn’t have a problem, Martin said, “You do now.” The unarmed teenager hit Zimmerman, knocked him to the ground, pinned him down and told him to “shut the [expletive] up.”

During the beating, Zimmerman pulled his gun and fired one shot at close range into Martin’s chest. “You got me,” the teenager said, falling backward.

Tracy Martin and the 17-year-old’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said Wednesday that they have never accepted this explanation for their son’s death.

“That was bull,” Tracy Martin said. “No way. At that point, I knew there was something terribly wrong.” The Sanford Police Department said in a statement Wednesday that it will no longer answer questions from the news media.

On Wednesday night, ABC released a police surveillance video taken the night of the shooting. The video shows Zimmerman, hands cuffed behind his back, arriving at the police station in a cruiser. He is frisked and led down a series of hallways. The video shows no blood or bruises on Zimmerman, and he did not check into the emergency room that night, the network said.

The official account given to Trayvon Martin’s parents conflicts with a version of the incident from his 16-year-old girlfriend, who was on the phone with him in the minutes before the shooting and has described their conversation to interviewers on the condition that she be identified only as DeeDee. According to her account, Trayvon Martin told her that someone was following him in a car. She has said that she heard another voice asking him what he was doing in the area before the phone went dead.

Tracy Martin said police asked him to identify his son from a crime-scene photograph. He said that authorities have yet to provide him with the autopsy report and that he was unable to view any injuries his son may have suffered in the fatal struggle.

“We didn’t see the body until it got back to Fort Lauderdale and he was cleaned up and dressed up for the funeral,” Martin said.

Martin also provided new details about his son’s days in Sanford before the shooting. After he was suspended from school for 10 days, Trayvon Martin traveled to Sanford to spend time with his father and his girlfriend.

“I wanted some me-time with him,” Martin said. During his son’s first days there, Martin was at a convention in Orlando, and the teenager spent time hanging out with a relative. On the night of the shooting, Martin was out to dinner with his girlfriend. They returned to the gated community through a back entrance and did not see the police activity out at the front.

Martin and Fulton said they are moved by the outpouring of support from people across the nation. They said they were particularly touched by the actions of Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), who on Wednesday donned a gray hoodie and sunglasses and spoke from the floor of the House of Representatives about the need for a full investigation of the death.

“I applaud the young people all across the land who are making a statement about hoodies, about the real hoodlums in this nation, specifically those who tread on our law wearing official or quasi-official cloaks,” Rush said on the House floor.

“Racial profiling has got to stop,” he said. “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”

As he spoke those words, he removed his suit jacket and lifted the hood over his head. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), presiding over the floor as Rush delivered his remarks, began to gavel almost immediately. Shouting over Rush, who began to recite Bible verses, Harper said the congressman was out of order for donning the hood. Rules bar House members from wearing hats in the chamber. Rush was then escorted from the floor.

“I’d like to commend Congressman Rush for pleading our case,” said Tracy Martin, after viewing a videotape of the event. “Why wasn’t Congressman Rush allowed to address racial profiling? It’s something that needs to be talked about. This is a country of freedom of speech.”

More on this story:

Who is George Zimmerman?

Supporters of Zimmerman wary of speaking out, fearing public backlash

Trayvon Martin’s parents commend Bobby Rush for wearing hoodie on House floor

Florida prosecutor taps experts to review 911 calls

Sari Horwitz covers the Justice Department, after 30 years at the paper where she has been an investigative reporter and covered federal law enforcement, crime, education and social services.
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