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Answers sought in death of teen in Fla. suburb

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POSTED March 8, 2012 8:21 p.m.

 

 

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The family of a Florida teen who was fatally shot after an encounter with a neighborhood watch leader on Thursday asked the police department investigating the death to release 911 tapes that may help explain how the young man died.

Family members said 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, of Miami, was visiting his father and soon-to-be stepmother last month at their home in a gated community in the Orlando suburb of Sanford. He had gone to a convenience store to buy some Skittles candy and was returning home when he was confronted by an armed man who was head of the local neighborhood watch, family member said.

The man hasn't been charged. His name was redacted along with Martin's name in an initial police report but he was identified as 28-year-old George Zimmerman in a police report released Thursday.

The report said Zimmerman initially called police to report a suspicious person in the neighborhood and minutes later 911 dispatchers received several calls of shots being fired in the neighborhood. Zimmerman told police officers that he had shot Martin and officers found a semiautomatic handgun on him. The report said that Zimmerman's back was wet and he was covered in grass as if he had been on the ground. He was bleeding from his nose and the back of the head, the report said.

A police officer said he overheard Zimmerman say, "I was yelling for someone to help me but no one would help me" while he was being treated by paramedics.

Zimmerman has been interviewed three times and is cooperating. He is claiming self-defense, even though he was following Martin, said Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee.

"There is some physical evidence and some testimony that would corroborate some of that story," Lee said.

The 911 tapes haven't been released because it has critical information and detectives don't want it to influence the testimony of prospective witnesses, the police chief said.

Nobody answered the phone at Zimmerman's house despite attempts by The Associated Press to reach him Thursday.

Martin's father, Tracy, said Thursday that family members were upset that no arrest had been made. He described the neighborhood as mixed race but his attorneys said they believed Trayvon Martin was being profiled at the time of the encounter because he was a young black man. Zimmerman is white. The attorneys also questioned why a neighborhood watch leader would carry a gun.

"He was stereotyped for some reason," attorney Ben Crump said of the victim. "Why was Trayvon suspicious? There are hundreds of children in that community.

The police chief said residents upset by the lack of an arrest so far should wait until the investigation is completed, as soon as next week. The State Attorney's Office will then decide whether to present it to a grand jury.

"I understand the emotions and the response from the community ... based on the limited information they have," Lee said. "We just hope they would allow us the time to conduct a thorough and fair investigation."

 

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