When George Zimmerman shot black teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, the media were quick to accuse the 28-year-old Hispanic of being a racist, but new information gathered by the FBI indicates that Zimmerman did not shoot the youth because of his race.
Dozens of friends, coworkers and neighbors indicated that the neighborhood watch volunteer became involved in an altercation with Martin because of the “hoodie” or hooded sweatshirt the youth was wearing. Indeed, the FBI report released on Thursday included an interview with Sanford Police Detective Christopher Serino, the lead investigator in the case, who said that members of local gangs, who call themselves "Goons," often wear hoodies.
Martin was wearing a hoodie while returning from a convenience store when the Hispanic man called a 9-1-1 dispatcher, said the teen looked suspicious and then followed him.
Zimmerman claims he killed Martin in self-defense after the youth attacked him and slammed Zimmerman's head into the sidewalk during a confrontation in Zimmerman's gated community in central Florida.
During the interview with Serino, the detective also described Zimmerman as "overzealous" and having a "little hero complex." He submitted a report to Sanford police officials and the state attorney's office saying there was sufficient probable cause to arrest and charge Zimmerman with crimes related to the incident.
According to a Reuters article written by Kevin Gray and Barbara Liston, the reports from the FBI were among a new collection of evidence, including crime scene photos, bank surveillance videos and other documents, that were released by the Florida's state attorney's office in the racially-charged case.
You may recall that Geraldo Rivera, a liberal commentator on the Fox News Channel, had tweeted on March 23 that Martin's hoodie killed him “as surely as George Zimmerman.”
You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta -- you’re going to be a gangsta wannabe, well, people are going to perceive you as a menace. That’s what happens.
Rivera appeared on the July 13 edition of the early-morning “Fox and Friends” program to argue the new evidence vindicates his argument, which was roundly condemned as inappropriate in many media circles:
I hate to brag, but I got criticized by every pundit in America when I said that Trayvon Martin would be alive today but for the fact that he was wearing thug wear. He was wearing the hoodie.
Turns out now that we look at George Zimmerman’s interviews with the police. He didn’t profile Trayvon Martin because he was black, he profiled him because he was wearing a hoodie.
For now, Zimmerman is living in an undisclosed safe house after being released on $1 million bail last week.
Mr. Zimmerman may well be a hot-head who made a foolish decision that tragically led to a young man's death. But that doesn't make him a racist, and the media's rush to judgment and insistence on a racism narrative -- particularly NBC’s pernicious editing of a 9-1-1 call -- may have tainted the jury pool.
A jury of Zimmerman's peers will weigh all the evidence and hopefully will do so in a fair and impartial manner. Moving forward, the media would do best to matter-of-factly report on the progress of the court proceedings, rather than seeing larger narratives at play in the courtroom drama.