The case of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, the vigilante and self-appointed “neighborhood watch,” has sparked outrage across America, and rightfully so.
However, what I find noteworthy in this case is not so much the conduct of Zimmerman (in a nation of over 300 million people you are bound to have a few kooks like him) but the conduct of the police department and the district attorney in Sanford, Fla. Even the right-wing Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, recognized that it was necessary to remove District Attorney Norm Wolfinger from the case and appoint a special prosecutor. The City Council of Sanford cast a vote of “no confidence” in Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, and he was forced to resign “temporarily” after the city council informed the city manager that his job was in jeopardy if Lee was not removed. The swing vote on the Sanford City Council (a Republican) stated publicly that he could not foresee a circumstance that would permit the return of Lee as Police Chief.
I had been waiting to write about this case for weeks now, in the hope that more information would be forthcoming from the Sanford Police Department, but most of the relevant new information that has come out about this case has been broken by ABC News. In fact, it was not until the family of Trayvon Martin filed a lawsuit to have the 911 tapes released that the Sanford Police Department made the tapes public. That was when we first learned that Zimmerman disobeyed the instructions of the 911 dispatcher when he left his car and began to follow Trayvon Martin. It has been reported by one of the citizens questioned by the lead homicide detective who was investigating the shooting that the detective did not believe Zimmerman’s account of the events of that evening. NBC News has reported that the detective investigating the shooting swore out an affidavit stating that he didn’t believe Zimmerman was telling the truth and objecting to the decision (apparently made by someone higher in the chain of command) not to charge Zimmerman. The one thing the Sanford Police Department did do was to try to smear the victim by having an “anonymous” source within the department “leak” the information that Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school because an empty bag that had supposedly contained marijuana had been found in his possession. The Sanford Police Department then took the unprecedented step of calling a press conference to state that the information in the “unauthorized leak” was accurate.
What do we know about George Zimmerman so far? As a matter of public record, we know that he made 46 calls to police in 13 months in his self-appointed role as “neighborhood watch.” We know, as a matter of public record, that he was arrested and charged for interfering with an arrest and assaulting a law enforcement officer, only to have the charges dropped. We know that his co-workers describe him as a person who has “anger management issues” and a “controlling” personality and is a “cop wannabe.” As things happened, George Zimmerman never achieved his dream of becoming a police officer (thank God!).
Why were charges against Zimmerman such as assaulting an officer and obstruction of justice dropped? Radio commentator Mike Papantonio (an attorney) suggested a couple of weeks ago that perhaps Zimmerman was a police informant. What is obvious is that Zimmerman was receiving special treatment from law enforcement authorities in Florida as far back as seven years ago, and the question is, why? Clearly, it seems that there must be some kind of connection between Zimmerman and the police for the police to be protecting him as they are, but what is it?
I am 52 years old, and the last time I can remember a case where the stench of a cover-up was so overwhelming was the Watergate affair, which brought down the administration of Richard Nixon.
Paul Schwietering is a former Democratic state central committeeman. He lives in Union Township.