Friday, February 23, 2018

George Zimmerman complained about Sanford police in 2011

ORLANDO — George Zimmerman accused the Sanford police department of corruption more than a year before he shot Trayvon Martin, saying at a public forum the agency covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer.

"I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white," he said during a 90-second statement to city commissioners at a community forum. "It should not and cannot be enforced in the gray for those who are in the thin blue line."

The forum took place Jan. 8, 2011, days after a video of the beating went viral on the Internet and then-Sanford police Chief Brian Tooley was forced to retire. The department faced criticism for dragging its feet in arresting Justin Collison, the son of a police lieutenant.

"I'd like to know what action the commission is taking in order to repeal Mr. Tooley's pension," Zimmerman said. "I'm not asking you to repeal his pension; I believe he's already forfeited his pension by his illegal coverup in corruption in what happened in his department."

Zimmerman's public comments could be important because the Martin family and supporters contend the neighborhood watch volunteer singled Martin out because he was black. Supporters have said Zimmerman, who is half Peruvian and half white, is not racist.

The Miami Herald first reported details from the January 2011 community forum Wednesday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the tape from the meeting.

In the speech, Zimmerman said he witnessed "disgusting" behavior by officers when he was part of a ride-along program, though the agency said it did not know when, if ever, Zimmerman was in that program.

"The officer showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps. He explained to me he doesn't carry a long gun in his vehicle because, in his words, 'Anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork and you're gonna find me as far away from it.' "

Zimmerman also said the officer in question "took two lunch breaks and attended a going away party for one of his fellow officers."

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and interim police Chief Richard Myers were both unavailable for comment.

Zimmerman out on bond awaiting his second-degree murder trial for shooting Martin. Martin was walking back to a townhome he was staying at when he got into a fight with Zimmerman, who shot him in the chest at close range.

Zimmerman, who said the Feb. 26 shooting was self-defense, was initially not arrested. But after protests around the country and an investigation by a state prosecutor, he was charged.

Police Chief Bill Lee temporarily resigned his post following a no-confidence vote by city commissioners. He is on paid leave.

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