In this undated photo released by the Office of the State Attorney Fourth… (Office of the State Attorney…)
Federal authorities investigating the death of black teenager Trayvon Martin interviewed dozens of people who knew shooter George Zimmerman -- and none said the neighborhood watch volunteer was racist, according to news reports of documents released Thursday.
The case has become a racial rallying cry for many Americans, with Martin's parents and activists contending that Zimmerman -- who is half-white, half-Hispanic -- racially profiled Martin when he trailed and shot the unarmed 17-year-old earlier this year. Martin was walking through a gated community in Sanford, Fla., at the time.
The Sanford Police Department's initial refusal to arrest Martin added fuel to the fire. The 44 days between the Feb. 26 shooting and Zimmerman’s arrest led to protests, the firing of the Sanford police chief and the launch of a U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation. Zimmerman was ultimately charged with second-degree murder.
But in evidence released in the case Thursday, FBI agents said they interviewed an array of people in Zimmerman’s life, the Orlando Sentinel reported, and none said they saw hints of racial bias.
Among the evidence were statements from law enforcement officers about the scene of the shooting, according to the Associated Press. One officer described using a plastic bag to try and stop the blood flowing from Martin’s chest.
Also included were officers' descriptions of the injuries Zimmerman sustained during the alleged fight with Martin. Those descriptions could prove especially significant in Zimmerman's trial; he's acknowledged shooting Martin, but has said he did so in self-defense.
Zimmerman had wounds on the back of his head when he was brought to the police station, officers said, but they did not agree on whether his nose was broken or not. One officer said Zimmerman grunted in pain as he was taken to police headquarters.
Agents also interviewed the Sanford Police Department’s lead investigator, Chris Serino, on the Zimmerman case, the Sentinel reported. Serino reportedly said Zimmerman pursued Martin based on his attire. But, he added, though Zimmerman has a “little hero complex,” he wasn't a racist.
Similarly, Zimmerman's former fiancee told the FBI that Zimmerman had a bad temper but did not seem racially biased. The violence in their relationship escalated and culminated in domestic-violence injunctions against each other in 2005.
His fiancee also said Zimmerman had mentioned wanting to be a police officer.
In an email sent in September to then-Police Chief Bill Lee, Zimmerman praised an officer he had worked with to coordinate the neighborhood watch patrol.
"In the past, I have not had a positive perspective of Sanford Police Department, due primarily to the Sherman Ware incident," Zimmerman wrote, in reference to alleged police misconduct that involved the son of an officer, according to the Sentinel.
But for Zimmerman, working with Sanford police "restored faith" in Lee's administration.
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