Witness' mom: Police exerted pressure

March 30, 2012 at 12:50 PM
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SANFORD, Fla., March 30 (UPI) -- A 13-year-old witness in the shooting death of an unarmed teen by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida felt pressured by police, his mom said.

The revelation by the boy's mother to the New York Daily News Thursday came as the father of shooter George Zimmerman voiced new claims, including that Trayvon Martin, 17, told his 28-year-old son, "You're going to die tonight," when they tangled in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.

Police in Sanford have said Austin Brown, who was walking his dog Feb. 26 near where the shooting occurred, saw the younger Zimmerman lying in the grass crying for help just before the slaying. However, the boy's mother, Cheryl Brown, told the Daily News when police interviewed her son later, he told them he saw only one person lying in the grass and he couldn't tell who it was.

"He kept telling them he couldn't see anything because it was too dark," she said. "He said he couldn't see the race or anything. He never saw a second person."

She said when police asked what the person was wearing they offered three color options and he said, "I think it was red."

Zimmerman was wearing a red and black jacket while Martin wore a gray hoodie.

"Knowing my son, I believe he felt pressured to give the color," Brown told the Daily News. "He really couldn't see anything. I think when interviewing a 13-year-old you don't give them three options."

Meanwhile, another witness to the shooting relayed his recollection of events to CNN, saying he saw two people struggling on the ground but also said it was too dark to determine who was on top.

The witness, who asked not to be identified even by gender, told CNN of hearing loud voices then looking out a window and seeing "two men or two people on the ground, one on top of each other."

"I couldn't see a lot of movement," the witness said. "It was very dark, but I felt like they were scuffling. And then I heard the gunshots, which, to me, were more like pops than they were like a bang."

Retreat at Twin Lakes homeowners could be liable if Zimmerman is charged and convicted of killing Martin, an attorney told the Orlando Sentinel.

Donna Berger, a lawyer specializing in homeowner association law, said if Zimmerman is found guilty, the community's homeowner association and property-management company likely would be sued by Martin's family over the watch program, the Sentinel reported.

"They may wind up getting sued and getting hit with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and damages," Berger said. "Who will pay is every member of the association, and they will have to make special assessments. It's a cautionary tale for other associations."

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