The Florida shooting case that has roiled the nation for weeks took an unexpected turn Monday, when police released the shocking account of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26. As protesters in Sanford, Fla. — where the 17-year-old was killed — marked the one-month anniversary of the killing by demanding Zimmerman's arrest, police revealed that Zimmerman claims it was Trayvon who attacked first, punching Zimmerman in the face, jumping on him, and repeatedly banging the 28-year-old's head on the ground. Here, a guide to the latest allegations:
How did Zimmerman and Trayvon confront each other?
Trayvon's supporters have long maintained that Zimmerman aggressively approached Trayvon out of unwarranted racial bias. They say that Zimmerman was driving in his SUV when he saw Trayvon, who was black, walking with a pack of Skittles, a can of iced tea, and his cellphone. According to 911 tapes reluctantly released by Sanford police, Zimmerman told police dispatchers he was concerned about a "real suspicious guy," a "black male" walking around the neighborhood. "These assholes always get away," he added, before chasing after Martin, despite the dispatcher telling him not to. A scuffle ensued — the details of which have been somewhat hazy until now.
What does Zimmerman's camp say?
Zimmerman's attorney, Craig Sonner, has spoken out for the first time, saying his client shot in self-defense after Trayvon attacked him. Zimmerman himself has not spoken out, but the Orlando Sentinel reports that Zimmerman told police he was walking back to his SUV when Trayvon approached him from behind, punched Zimmerman in the nose, then climbed on top of Zimmerman and "slammed his head into the sidewalk, leaving him bloody and battered."
Is there evidence that Trayvon was the aggressor?
Zimmerman's family and friends — including former news anchor Joe Oliver, who has defended his longtime friend — claim newly released audio from a 911 call placed by an eyewitness provides evidence that Zimmerman, not Trayvon, was screaming for help. But it's hardly definitive: Some witnesses say it's Trayvon screaming. Others say they never heard any commotion or struggle before the gun went off.
A 13-year-old witness says he saw a man fitting Zimmerman's description bloodied and on the ground before he heard the gunshot.
Is there evidence that Zimmerman attacked first?
Trayvon's girlfriend, who spoke with the teen moments before the incident, has attested to Trayvon being targeted, and said she believes Zimmerman followed Trayvon, pushed him, knocked him down, and shot him without cause.
What should we make of all this?
We still don't know exactly what happened that night, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, and we should be careful before rushing to judgment. "There is a disturbing tendency in high profile criminal cases for the public, egged on by the constant media coverage and the incessant drone of the talking heads, to rush to judgment long before it's warranted." Let's all just take a deep breath and "back off on judging the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman based on incomplete evidence and let the system do its job."