Michael Tabman

A Shooting in Florida and Many Questions to be Answered

In Crime and Security on March 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Update:  On Fox 4 News discussing this case: Fox 4

As with any discussion of an alleged crime, we begin with the premise of innocence until a conviction. However, that does not preclude an analysis of the facts and circumstances as they are known at the time – and those often change as more details are unearthed.

George Zimmerman was doing his neighborhood watch patrol when he encountered Trayvon Martin. Upon hearing this story, I immediately recalled my experiences with neighborhood watch when I was a police officer in uniform in the early 1980s. I was often met by neighborhood watch patrols wanting to know, “How can I help you, officer?”  I never really took that as a true offer. What could they realistically do for me?  I found that to be an over-assertive attempt to get involved in a police action in which they had no business.

Our anti-terrorism mantra, “See something, say something” was the theme of neighborhood watches long before 9/11. It was a great concept – be the eyes and ears of the police department, but take no action. When I was a plain-clothes cop, neighborhood watch patrols often went well beyond that concept. They would follow us, sometimes challenge us and at times, broke the law in furtherance of their neighborhood watch duties. If we were in fact criminals, they may have gotten hurt. Most neighborhood watches stay within the confines of their intended purpose. But those who did not know where to draw the line were trouble.

The police 911 tape clearly recorded the police dispatcher advising Zimmerman to stop following Martin – in other words, back off and leave it to the police. But Zimmerman did not stop. A confrontation ensued and Martin was shot dead.

After 27 years as a cop and FBI Agent, I am comfortable stating that probable cause to arrest Zimmerman existed.  Zimmerman’s weapon and all other evidence should have been seized, witness statements taken and the appropriate crime scene and forensic examination conducted. None of that appears to have been done. Now, a Grand Jury has been impaneled.

Cited as a reason for not arresting Zimmerman is Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law which states, “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

I do not believe that this law prohibited an arrest. The prima facie evidence does not indicate that Zimmerman was in imminent fear of death or great bodily harm. If the investigation subsequently indicated this, the charges could be dropped. If Zimmerman was charged, then he could raise this as his defense. I never suggest that police make an arrest when the facts do not support one – irrespective of a tragedy. But this was not the case. This is not to say that Zimmerman is guilty of any crime, but the facts and circumstances did warrant an arrest and the appropriate investigation.

Now this matter has drawn national media attention and a concurrent federal investigation. Hopefully, the truth will be learned and justice will be served – consistent with the truth and nothing else.

  1. thank you for stating the obvious the negligence on behalf of this police dept is appalling

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