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Trayvon Martin case: Lead investigator is reassigned

June 26, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • George Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
George Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting… (Seminole County Sheriff's…)

The lead detective in the Trayvon Martin case has been reassigned to the Sanford, Fla., patrol division at his request, police announced Tuesday; he had recommended a manslaughter charge againstĀ  George Zimmerman, who fatally shot the teen.

Christopher Serino will begin his new assignment on July 7, Sanford police spokesman Sgt. David Morgenstern said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times. The move is not a demotion and Serino will continue at his same pay grade, Morgenstern said.

Serino was the lead investigator in the Feb. 26 shooting of Martin, 17, by Zimmerman, 28, at a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Martin, an African American, was unarmed.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, has said he shot Martin in self-defense. Sanford police did not charge him that night, but civil rights activists led weeks of protests until a special prosecutor was named. The prosecutor brought a second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman, who is in jail awaiting a bail bond hearing set for Friday.

The quality of the local police investigation has been a subject of controversy in the case. The former police chief, Bill Lee, was placed on paid leave after the shooting and was recently officially relieved of all duties.

According to the latest investigative material in the case, released Tuesday, Serino argued in his report that the confrontation with Martin could have been defused if Zimmerman had identified himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Serino said Zimmerman verbally confronted Martin before the pair fought and Zimmerman shot Martin.

Serino wrote in his report that Zimmerman was in his vehicle and that he said he initially avoided Martin because he was afraid. Zimmerman later got out of his vehicle and followed Martin, who was returning from a convenience store.

Zimmerman’s  “actions are inconsistent of those of a person who has stated he was in fear of another subject,” Serino wrote.

The detective recommended a charge of manslaughter, but no charge was brought until the special prosecutor was appointed.

Zimmerman presented a different version of the encounter in a video interview with investigators released last week.

Zimmerman said Martin knocked him to the ground, then jumped on top of him, slamming his head against the ground. In the tape, Zimmerman has two bandages on the back of his head. Zimmerman said he grabbed his gun from a holster at his waist before Martin could get it then shot the teenager once in the chest.

After Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder, he was released on a $150,000 bail bond. That bond was revoked on June 1 after prosecutors argued that he and his wife, Shellie, had misled the court about the amount of money they could afford for bail.

On June 3, Zimmerman surrendered to authorities and was returned to jail. Shellie Zimmerman was charged on June 13 with making a false statement and released on bail.

Zimmerman's lawyers have filed a motion seeking a “reasonable” bail be granted at Friday's bond hearing.

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Join Michael on Google+. Email: michael.muskal@latimes.com

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