After repeated calls for the release of the 911 audio in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the Sanford police department finally released the audio on Friday.
Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton of Miami Gardens, arrived at Sanford City Hall to hear the tapes.
Martin broke down and “cried like a baby,” when he heard his son pleading for his life on one of the audio tapes.
“You hear a shot, a clear shot, then you hear a 17-year-old boy begging for his life,” said Natalie Jackson, one of the family’s attorneys. “Then you hear a second shot.”
The first shot can be heard in the distance — “a warning shot,” said attorney Ben Crump. The second shot is much closer.
“It is shocking when you hear these 911 tapes,” said Crump. “It was far worse than they thought it was going to be.”
In all, the Sanford police released 8 audio tapes — 7 calls placed to 911 by nervous witnesses, and one call from the shooter, 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who claimed he killed Trayvon in self-defense.
“This is an insult to this family,” attorney Natalie Jackson said. “This was not self-defense, this was not manslaughter, this was murder.”
“How can you claim self-defense and you are the aggressor?,” said Trayvon’s distraught father.
Tracy Martin had taken Trayvon to visit a friend who lived in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Trayvon later left the house to walk to a nearby convenience store to buy a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea. On his way back, he caught the attention of Zimmerman, who was cruising the neighborhood in his SUV.
Zimmerman called 911 to report a “suspicious person” inside The Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community, about 20 miles north of Orlando.
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something,” Zimmerman tells the 911 operator. “It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking at houses,” says Zimmerman. The call was one of 46 calls to 911 made by Zimmerman in the past to report suspicious persons.
“He’s just staring, looking at all the houses. Now he’s coming toward me. He’s got his hand in his waistband. Something’s wrong with him,” says Zimmerman in a calm voice.
The 911 dispatcher asked Zimmerman to describe the man’s race and age. “He’s a black male… late teens,” Zimmerman responds.
Zimmerman described Martin as wearing a hoodie and sweatpants or jeans. He continues: “He’s coming to check me out. He’s got something in his hands. I don’t know what his deal is. Can we get an officer over here?”
“These assholes always get away,” he tells the 911 operator. “Shit, he’s running,” Zimmerman says calmly.
The dispatcher told Zimmerman that he was sending an officer.
[A car door slams shut]
“Are you following him?” the dispatcher asks.
“Yeah,” Zimmerman responds.
“Okay. We don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher says.
“Okay,” Zimmerman replies.
But Zimmerman followed Trayvon anyway. Moments later, a rash of emergency calls placed to 911 from inside the community described a scuffle, cries for help and a gunshot.
But until Friday, Trayvon’s parents and the public were told that the person crying for help was the 200 pound Zimmerman.
In one of the audio tapes, a frightened voice cries out for help and pleading “No! No!” and then wailing, before a gunshot ends the cries.
Mary Cutcher, 31, whose back door was steps away from where Trayvon was shot, said she heard a boy crying, then a gunshot, then the crying stopped.
“I heard someone crying – not boo-hoo crying, but scared or terrified or hurt maybe,” said Cutcher. “To me, it was a child.”
Cutcher and her roommate said they rushed outside to see Zimmerman standing over Trayvon, with one foot on either side of Trayvon’s body. In one hand, Zimmerman held a .9 mm handgun, his other hand was on Trayvon, who was face down in the grass.
Cutcher’s roommate said she asked Zimmerman 3 times what was going on. He told her to call 911. Then he raised both hands over his head in the universal sign of ‘Oh man, I did something bad.’
Police arrived on the scene in minutes. Trayvon’s body was bagged and taken to the morgue, where he was tagged as a John Doe. No one contacted Trayvon’s family even though police had Trayvon’s cell phone in their possession.
Zimmerman was taken in for questioning and released. No charges were filed. Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said Zimmerman was released because he had a “squeaky clean” record.
But if Lee had actually checked that record, he would have known that Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 for battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. Strangely, all charges against Zimmerman were dropped in that case.
On Feb. 27 — the day after Trayvon was murdered — Tracy Martin called 911 to report his son missing. Police asked him to describe his son. Later, police showed up at the house where Martin was staying. They brought with them a photograph of Trayvon lying in the morgue. The teenager had blood coming out of his mouth.
That’s how a father found out his oldest son was dead.