By Brian Hamacher and Karen Yi
The FBI found no racial bias behind George Zimmerman's shooting of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin, according to dozens of documents related to the case released Thursday.
The second round of discovery documents released by prosecutors include reports from the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and State Attorney's Office as well as photos of the crime scene, aerial photos, police calls and surveillance video related to the shooting.
Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder for the killing of Martin, 17, in a Sanford gated community in February. He claims he shot Martin in self-defense.
The documents from the State Attorney's Office include memorandums of interviews between investigators and witnesses, family members and officers who responded to the scene and worked on the case.
Chris Serino, the lead investigator on the shooting, told the FBI race wasn't behind the shooting."SERINO believed that ZIMMERMAN's actions were not based on MARTIN's skin color rather based on his attire, the total circumstances of the encounter and the previous burglary suspects in the community," the FBI wrote in the report. "Serino described ZIMMERMAN as overzealous and as having a 'little hero complex', but not as a racist."
The FBI is conducting a probe into whether there were civil rights violations in the handling of Martin's death investigation, and the FDLE assisted the criminal investigation.
In the FBI documents, several co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances of Zimmerman say they never knew him to have any bias toward race or religion.
The Department of Justice's investigation — to determine whether the shooting was a hate crime — is still open. Justice Department officials told NBC News they have no plans to pursue charges while the state's murder case against Zimmerman is proceeding.
Zimmerman's former fiancee, who was interviewed by the FBI, described their volatile relationship which began in 2001, according to the report. The woman, whose name was redacted, told the FBI that the couple began to argue a lot after their engagement and described a couple times where he became physically aggressive.
The engagement ended, and both Zimmerman and the woman later filed injunctions against each other, the report said. Despite her allegations, the woman told the FBI that Zimmerman had never exhibited any biases or prejudices against anyone and never used racial epithets of any kind. She added that he "was not the type of person to place himself in a physical confrontation" and he was the last person she would expect to be involved in a shooting.
The FDLE also interviewed a friend of Zimmerman who was a former Seminole County deputy. The friend, whose name was redacted, said he had met Zimmerman sometime between 2006-2007, and added that he taught him how to shoot, the report said.
"[Redacted] described Zimmerman as a person of strong character but not very street wise. Redacted has never known Zimmerman to be in a fist fight," the report said. "[Redacted] has never known Zimmerman to associate with anyone known to have any bias/prejudice against any individual or group based on race, religion, etc..."
The friend also said "Zimmerman never actively patrolled the neighborhood, but would just be very observant to what was going on while walking his dog around the neighborhood," according to the report.
However, a neighbor who lives in the Retreat at Twin Lakes neighborhood where Zimmerman lived and the shooting happened, told the FBI she would see Zimmerman drive around the neighborhood with his car lights off, and saw him check the walkways with a flashlight late at night, the report said.
Also included is an FBI interview with Sanford Police Sgt. Arthur Barns, an African-American officer who has been with the department for 25 years.
According to the report, Barns said the number one crime in Sanford is burglaries, and said they have been an issue in the area of the Retreat at Twin Lakes.
"Barns believes the African American Community would be in an 'uproar' if ZIMMERMAN is not charged. The community will be satisfied if an arrest takes place. As for the civil rights investigation, if it is determined to be a violation of Trayvon Martin's civil rights then it will reflect negatively on the Sanford Police Department and fingers will be pointed at them for not doing their job properly. Barns feels the community is at a 50/50 split whether it was a hate crime or not," the report said. "Barns felt the shooting was not racially motivated, but it was a man shooting an un-armed kid."
The lack of an arrest for 44 days led to protests nationwide and the departure of Sanford's police chief.
Included in the documents are black and white photos of the bullet that killed Martin and two of his sweatshirts pierced by the bullet. One sweatshirt, which Martin was apparently wearing underneath his hoodie, is stained with blood around the bullet hole.
One of the State Attorney's Office interviews is with Sanford Officer Tim Smith, who was the first to respond to the scene. Smith noted that Zimmerman was bleeding from his nose.
In another interview, Sergeant Steve Lynch noted he didn't see any injuries on Zimmerman's nose.
"Zimmerman asked if he could wash up. Officer Lynch reminded the other officer to ensure that a photograph was taken of the 2 small lacerations on the back of Zimmerman's head. Officer Lynch did not notice any injury to Zimmerman's nose," the report said. "Officer Lynch saw Zimmerman cuffed in the interview room sitting in a chair. Zimmerman was 'grunting' as if in pain."
A witness whose name was redacted in an interview with FDLE said he saw Zimmerman bleeding from his face and head with his flashlight.
"[Redacted] shined his light on Zimmerman and saw blood on Zimmerman's face and the back of his head," the report said.
A co-worker of Zimmerman who was interviewed by the FBI said he saw Zimmerman the morning after the shooting.
"[Redacted] immediately noticed ZIMMERMAN had medical tape across his nose that ran under his eyes. [Redacted] observed [redacted] Zimmerman's face was black and blue under the tape that ran across the front of his face. [Redacted] noticed bruising beneath the tape of both of ZIMMERMAN's eyes. Zimmerman told him that his nose was broken," the report said.
Also interviewed by the State Attorney's Office was Martin's cousin, whose name is also redacted. When he was asked to identify a voice heard calling for help in a 911 call, he said it's definitely Martin.
"When asked about the calls for help he said without a doubt 'on a stack of Bibles' that it was Trayvon's voice," the report said.
Zimmerman's attorneys say it was Zimmerman who was calling for help.
Among the material released Thursday were seven calls Zimmerman made between August 2011 to February 2012 to the non-emergency line at the Sanford Police Department to report suspicious activity in the neighborhood and cite a group of kids playing in the streets.
In the first call dated August 3, 2011, Zimmerman tells the dispatcher his neighborhood got burglarized earlier that day and that someone matching the suspect’s description is back in the area.
"Our neighborhood got burglarized or robbed today and my wife saw one of the kids that did it, and we see someone that matches his description in the neighborhood right now, again,” Zimmerman tells the dispatcher.
When asked, Zimmerman describes the suspect as a black individual and says the individual went between the houses to the back. Meanwhile, someone can be heard in the background describing what’s going on outside.
In another call on August 6, 2011, Zimmerman tells the dispatcher there are two youths back in the neighborhood that were also previously identified by his wife for a prior break-in. He describes them as two black males in their late teens.
"They typically run away quickly and I think they head over to the next neighborhood over so you may want to send a unit over [there],” Zimmerman says.
Zimmerman again reports two "suspicious characters" on October 1, 2011. In the call he says, “We’ve had a lot of break ins in our neighborhood recently and I’m on the neighborhood watch and there’s two suspicious characters at the gate of my neighborhood, I’ve never seen them before, I have no idea what they’re doing, they’re just hanging out, loitering."
The suspects are described as two African-African males in the mid to late 20s or early 30s.
On February 2, 2012, weeks before the fatal shooting, Zimmerman made another call to non-emergency to report a man walking around the neighborhood.
"He keeps going to this guy’s house, I know him, I know the resident, he’s Caucasian. And he’s going up to the house and going along the side of it and then coming to the street and then going back to the side of it. I don’t know what he’s doing, I don’t want to approach him, personally," he says.
Zimmerman, who was arrested in April, was released from jail last week after posting $1 million bond. Zimmerman’s original bond of $150,000 was revoked and he was ordered to return to jail last month after prosecutors claimed he and his wife misled the court about how much money they had.
His attorneys say he is staying in a safehouse in Seminole County.
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