More evidence released in Zimmerman case

Dec. 5, 2012 at 12:39 PM
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SANFORD, Fla., Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Evidence released in the case of the Florida watch volunteer who fatally shot an unarmed teen included testimony claiming racism in the local police department.

The latest batch of evidence in the George Zimmerman case released Tuesday included details about Zimmerman's interest in law enforcement and testimony alleging racism and sexism in the Sanford Police Department, which initially investigated the incident in which Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old black youth, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Among the newly released documents were FBI reports that are part of a civil rights investigation into the Feb. 26 shooting of Martin, including interviews with Sanford police, Zimmerman's neighbors and at least one co-worker.

One witness, Sanford Senior Project Manager Andrew Thomas, described the police as a "good old boys network."

Thomas also testified he heard of officers in recent years referring to African-Americans by a racial slur in radio communications. Thomas told the newspaper the allegations surfaced during a staff meeting a few years ago, adding, "I think clearly it's Sanford's past."

Thomas and another witness also described the schism between Sanford police and the black community.

"It is hard to be an African-American male in Sanford and not have a criminal record," the unidentified witness said.

Also, "female police officers at SPD would not take the sergeants exams because they knew they would never get promoted," an FBI report said.

As in previously released FBI records, no one interviewed said they knew of Zimmerman acting in a racist manner.

The Sentinel obtained the records from the office of Special Prosecutor Angela Corey. The names of the interviewed were blacked-out in the documents on a judge's order.

Zimmerman faces a second-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Martin. Zimmerman claimed he fired in self-defense after Martin attacked and beat him, and that his actions were allowed under Florida's stand-your-ground law. The case drew international outrage after police declined to arrest Zimmerman. He later was charged by Corey, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott as criticism grew.

The documents also include an FBI report about a former police officer who was a co-worker of Zimmerman's at the time of the shooting. He testified Zimmerman was fascinated by his law-enforcement experience, particularly concerning a shooting that occurred years earlier.

The FBI also interviewed Sanford police Investigator Doris Singleton and Sgt. Joseph Santiago about a message stored in Zimmerman's cellphone, the Sentinel said. The message said: "I have told you all everything that has transpired, do you really believe I would omit the fact that a narcotics officer guided me."

It wasn't clear whether the message was sent or received by Zimmerman.

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