As one co-worker told agents of the Federal Investigation Bureau, he was a “good person that was willing to serve at a drop of a dime.”
But come Feb. 26, George Zimmerman’s would change forever. The altercation with and subsequent shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin would make Zimmerman the focus of national attention – and the target of many looking for answers in the killing of a teenage boy.
More importantly, it would shape the public perception of a man who up until that point had led a relatively quiet life pursuing a successful career at work and a safe, happy life at home in Sanford.
Newly released evidence Thursday in the case against Zimmerman included almost 300 pages of reports from the State Attorney’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Investigation Bureau outlining statements from Zimmerman’s co-workers, friends, neighbors and even his ex-fiancé.
Also included in the evidence were six non-emergency calls made to the Sanford Police Department between the months of August of February, a time during which Zimmerman formed a neighborhood watch after break-ins became a problem at his gated community.
Additionally an interview with the initial lead investigator of the case, Sanford Investigator Chris Serino, revealed his impressions of Zimmerman and the account of that evening.
‘Professional, pleasant, positive’
Co-workers of Zimmerman describe the 28-year-old as a hardworking team player.
A past supervisor told agents of the FBI “he met a lot of challenges” and he “could rally in a positive manner to meet the challenges.” She also said even on workdays with long, stressful hours she saw no change in Zimmerman’s demeanor.
She went as far to call Zimmerman “professional, pleasant, positive,” and she considered him a “person of influence.”
A person in charge of human resources at Zimmerman’s job told the FBI Zimmerman never had any complaints filed against him, and even when a co-worker damaged his personal property, Zimmerman handled the situation with professionalism.
Another co-worker, who recommended Zimmerman for his job as a processor, said he was a “nice, good man, not flamboyant; a good human being.”
Each co-worker interviewed also said they never saw Zimmerman display bias, prejudice, or irrational attitudes against any class of citizen, religious, racial, gender or ethic groups.
A longtime friend of Zimmerman’s, who was also a former Seminole County deputy, told investigators from FDLE that Zimmerman was “a person of strong character…”
A neighbor, who knew Zimmerman through The Retreat’s homeowner association and Zimmerman’s creation of the neighborhood watch, said Zimmerman never displayed violent behavior or aggression. Furthermore the neighbor told FBI officials she “had never heard anyone make any negative remarks about Zimmerman before the shooting.”
Even Zimmerman’s ex-fiancé – who had filed an injunction against him after their break-up – said the only negative thing she could think of about their relationship was his temper. However, she also told the FBI that his mood swings may have come from a medication he was taking at the time.
Her statement to FBI agents read, “Although Zimmerman had a bad temper… she never witnessed any significant displays of anger or violence toward other people.”
‘Report anything suspicious’
In the months leading up to the shooting, The Retreat at Twin Lakes had several break-ins, leading Zimmerman to form a neighborhood watch in September.
Included in Thursday’s release of evidence are six non-emergency calls made between August 2011 and February that sound strikingly similar to the call Zimmerman made the night Martin was shot and killed.
Two calls made in August have Zimmerman beginning the same way his call on Feb. 26 does – stating there have been break-ins in the neighborhood and he sees suspicious black males that match the suspect descriptions from the break-ins around his neighbors’ homes. He made a similar call in October reporting two black males he does recognize driving through the neighborhood.
Another call made in September has Zimmerman reporting that his neighbor left their garage door open – something he finds out of the ordinary. He also stated The Retreat just held a neighborhood watch meeting the night before.
“They told us to report anything suspicious,” he said. “It’s late and they usually don’t have their garage door open all night.”
In January the neighborhood watch captain made another call to report that children have been playing in the street at dusk, and they would run in front of vehicles.
“Obviously it’s not an emergency, I’m just concerned for their safety and for the drivers in the neighborhood,” he said.
Less than a month before the incident with Martin, Zimmerman made a call to report another black male in the neighborhood, walking repeatedly around a home.
“I don’t know what his deal is,” stated Zimmerman. “I don’t want to approach him personally.”
During the final non-emergency call Zimmerman reported Martin as a suspicious person – even using the same phrasing to the dispatcher – “We’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood,” and “I don’t know what his deal is.”
Following the shooting, Zimmerman cooperated with police and gave several interviews with the Sanford Police Department including a reenactment of what happened that evening and performing a Computerized Voice Stress Test.
The next morning he returned to work to inform his supervisors he would not be coming in. His former supervisor saw him that morning and described his demeanor to the FBI.
The report stated, “Zimmerman looked ‘horrible’ and didn’t look like himself. Zimmerman looked ‘beat up physically and emotionally’ and he had bandages on the front and back of his head.”
The report also said, “It appeared… that Zimmerman was ‘holding himself together’ and ‘still absorbing the situation.’ [Redacted] continued to describe Zimmerman as ‘shocked and devastated’ and he ‘spoke in a low tone with no energy.’”
Another co-worker with a background in media provided support to Zimmerman in the following weeks as the attention to the case grew in the news.
She told the FBI, “I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do.”
According to each statement Zimmerman told every person he spoke about the incident with the shooting had occurred in self-defense.
When FBI agents interviewed Serino, who conducted all the initial interviews with the Sanford Police Department, Serino described Zimmerman as a “soft guy” and said his story appeared to be “scripted” because he knew the right things to say, such as he feared for his life and claiming self-defense.
Serino also mentioned that he did not believe Zimmerman was a racist.
Zimmerman’s friend, the former Seminole County deputy, provided a place for Zimmerman to stay in the weeks following the shooting and said Zimmerman grew frustrated with the attention to the case.
The FBI statement read, “Zimmerman is frustrated with the New Black Panther party and very scared of them. Zimmerman is very concerned with all the negative reaction from the press and other and wants more evidence released to show what really happened.”
Records show that around mid-March Zimmerman inquired about purchasing a new gun. Reports stated, “Zimmerman advised he needs the gun for protection,” and “Zimmerman told [redacted] his life is in danger and he needs more guns.”
The following month on April 11, Special Prosecutor for the case Angela Corey would announce to press that Zimmerman was charged with the second-degree murder of Martin. The probable cause affidavit for the arrest stated Zimmerman “profiled” and confronted Martin before the shooting.
Zimmerman, who had been in contact with the State Attorney’s Office before being charged, turned himself into officials that afternoon. During a search of his vehicle FDLE found a folding knife, a pistol, three loaded magazines and a holster.
Zimmerman was subsequently booked into the Seminole County jail. He is currently staying in a safe house in Seminole County after being released on a $1 million bond July 6.