A trove of evidence in the Trayvon Martin shooting has now been made public, and according to one police report, the 17-year-old's death at the hands of George Zimmerman was "ultimately avoidable." NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.
Prosecutors on Thursday made public a trove of evidence used to justify murder charges against Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman, including a police report that concluded "the encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman."
The evidence – including 183 pages of documents, witness statements and other material – was released Thursday to news organizations and other requestors by special prosecutor Angela Corey’s office, which has charged the 28-year-old Zimmerman with second-degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. Also included was a document explaining what material was withheld.
The evidence, which was provided to Zimmerman’s attorney early this week, will be helpful to both prosecutors and the defense.
A Feb. 27, 2012 photo by the Sanford Police Dept., shows George Zimmerman on the night of Trayvon Martin's shooting. The photo was released Thursday.
An autopsy by the Volusia County Medical Examiner on Martin's body found that the teenager was killed by a shot to the heart and that traces of THC -- or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana -- were found in Martin's blood, though below the level that medical studies indicate would have caused "performance impairment."
But the documents give contradictory assessments of how far away Zimmerman was when he shot Martin.
Lab tests by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Orlando operations center concluded that residue tests on Martin's sweatshirt were "consistent with a contact shot" — that is, one in which the muzzle of the weapon is physically touching the victim.
But the autopsy report from the Volusia County (Fla.) Medical Examiner's office reached a different conclusion based on examination of the wound itself, saying, "This wound is consistent with a wound of entrance of intermediate range."
The report doesn't define "intermediate range."
In another report, a police officer responding to the shooting said that after Zimmerman was handcuffed, he saw “that his back appeared to be wet and was covered with grass,” and that he had suffered a bloody nose – consistent with Zimmerman’s account that he was attacked by Martin.
A police photo of the back of George Zimmerman's head shows scalp lacerations.
A photo showing Zimmerman's bloodied head also is included in the report, as is a paramedic’s reports saying that he had a 1-inch laceration on his head and forehead abrasion.
"Bleeding tenderness to his nose, and a small laceration to the back of his head. All injuries have minor bleeding," paramedic Michael Brandy wrote about Zimmerman's injuries.
Another police report indicated that Zimmerman, who is white and of Hispanic heritage, had called Sanford police on at least four previous occasions while residing in the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community in Sanford, and in each case the “suspicious person” was a black male.
“Investigation reveals that on Aug. 4, Aug. 5 and Oct. 6, 2011, and on Feb. 2, 2012, George Zimmerman reported suspicious persons – all young black males – in the Retreat neighborhood to Sanford Police Department,” it said. “According to records checks, all of Zimmerman’s suspicious persons calls while residing in the Retreat neighborhood have identified black males as the subjects.”
Zimmerman himself was on a prescription for Tamazepam, according to the paramedic's incident report reproducing his medical records. (Tamazepam is also known as Restoril and is prescribed for anxiety and insomnia.)
Another police report indicated that Sanford police thought Zimmerman was at fault, even though they let him go after questioning him.
"Investigation reveals that Martin was in fact running generally in the direction of where he was staying as a guest in the neighborhood," it said.
An eight-page summary of the evidence against Zimmerman released earlier this week listed 50 possible law enforcement witnesses -- including 18 Sanford police officers as primary witnesses, including lead Investigator Chris Serino -- and 28 civilian witnesses, including Martin's brother, mother and father, Zimmerman’s father and two of his friends . Twenty-two other potential civilian witnesses were not identified.
Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O'Mara, acknowledged receiving the materials Monday on a website his office set up to release information from the case Zimmerman's, but said, "Please remember and understand that it is inappropriate for us to comment on particular pieces of evidence."
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin, and Mark O'Mara, the attorney for George Zimmerman, discuss how the just-released trove of new evidence will affect their case.
Zimmerman shot Martin during a confrontation inside the Retreat at Twin Lakes community, while the teenager was visiting his father’s fiancée.
The shooting came after Zimmerman called 911 reporting that Martin was acting suspiciously, as if he was on drugs. He later told police that he shot Martin in self-defense, after Martin punched him and pushed him to the ground.
Police initially failed to arrest Zimmerman or charge him with any crime because Florida's Stand Your Ground self-defense law allows the use of deadly force whenever someone feels threatened with serious bodily injury.
But after questions about possible racial motivation for the slaying, a special prosecutor took over the case and, on April 11, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder. Zimmerman, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, was released on April 23 on a $150,000 bond and has been out of the public eye since then.
Msnbc.com's Mike Brunker, Bill Dedman and M. Alex Johnson, NBC News producer Tom Winter and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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