The police told the Bertalans to get a gun and a big dog. They passed that advice along to Zimmerman, who, she said, got a Rottweiler. It is unclear when he received his permit to carry a concealed weapon; the Florida agency that grants such permits cannot, by statute, reveal such details.
Neighborhood watch efforts were doubled and Zimmerman spearheaded the initiative. Some of the suspects were young black men, but Bertalan said he never uttered a racist word.
The Bertalans, sick of the crime, moved out Feb. 15. Eleven days later, Zimmerman was headed to a grocery store when he spotted Trayvon Martin walking in the neighborhood in a dark hoodie. He called 911.
Since August, he had called four other times to report what he considered to be suspicious black males in the neighborhood.
"This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something," he said.
He told the operator that the teen was coming to check him out: "He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is."
A moment later, he said, "These ass— always get away," and reported that the young man was running.
The operator asked whether Zimmerman was following Martin. Yes, he said. The operator told him not to do so.
A lawyer for Martin's family would later assert that the boy was on the phone with his girlfriend. Martin told her a man was following him. She suggested he run.
What happened next is unclear. The Martin family attorney says the girlfriend heard Martin say, "Why are you following me?" and a man's voice reply, "What are you doing around here?"
Police concluded that Zimmerman lost sight of Martin and was walking to his SUV when the youth appeared in his path, confronting him and punching him.
Numerous 911 calls reported two men scuffling. In a recording, an anguished male voice cries out in the background repeatedly. Then there is a single sound, sharper than a hand clap.
Sanford Police Officer Timothy Smith rushed to the scene, describing it later in his report.
Zimmerman told the officer he had shot Martin, and was still armed.
Smith cuffed him and removed a black Kel-Tec 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun from his waistband.
He noticed that Zimmerman had a bloody nose and blood on the back of his head. Zimmerman was placed in the back of a squad car.
"I was yelling for someone to help me," the officer overheard Zimmerman say, "but no one would help me."
Times staff writer Michael Muskal in Los Angeles contributed to this report.