On the day Sanford police turned over the Trayvon Martin shooting investigation to prosecutors, they changed their final report at least four times over five hours and downgraded the charge they recommended from second-degree murder to manslaughter, newly released records show.
In the first version on March 13, lead Investigator Chris Serino and his bosses recommended that George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who killed Trayvon, be charged with murder. But they changed that about four hours later, according to paperwork released Tuesday by Zimmerman defense attorney Mark O'Mara.
Records reveal that Serino and his supervisors made several changes but only two major ones.
The first was the change in the charges.
The second was a strongly worded paragraph condemning Zimmerman's actions, pointing out that there was no need for a confrontation with Trayvon.
"The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement or conversely if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialog (sic) in an effort to dispel each party's concern. There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter."
In that same new paragraph, Serino and his bosses faulted Zimmerman for assuming that Trayvon was about to break into a home.
"Zimmerman … made it clear that he had already reached a faulty conclusion as to Martin's purpose for being in the neighborhood," the revised report says.
Ultimately, the revisions made no difference. A special prosecutor took over the case and had 29-year-old Zimmerman arrested on a charge of second-degree murder.
Zimmerman shot the unarmed 17-year-old high school junior from Miami Gardens on Feb. 26 in Sanford after calling police and describing him as suspicious. Zimmerman says he acted in self-defense and fired one shot only after Trayvon knocked him to the ground, climbed on top of him and began banging his head on a sidewalk.
Zimmerman is free on $1 million bail, awaiting a trial that's scheduled for June 10.