Although it has been widely reported (by me, among others) that George Zimmerman continued to follow Trayvon Martin after a police dispatcher suggested that he stop, the recording of Zimmerman's 911 call leaves that point unclear. Zimmerman gets out of his SUV before the dispatcher asks (probably because the wind is suddenly audible in the background), "Are you following him?" Zimmerman says yes, and the dispatcher replies, "OK, we don't need you to do that." Zimmerman says "OK" and then dithers for a minute or so about where police should meet him, finally saying they should call him when they arrive, "and I'll tell them where I'm at." The dispatcher agrees, and the recording ends at that point. The implication that Zimmerman did not plan to stay put could mean he continued to follow Martin, although he claims (through his father) that he was only looking for an address so he could figure out exactly where he was. In an interview with The Miami Herald, Walt Zalisko, "a former Jersey City police commander who now owns a police management consulting company in Central Florida,…said it's implausible that Zimmerman would not know where he was in a tiny gated community that he patrolled regularly," declaring, "That's a lie right there." Maybe, but it's consistent with the confusion Zimmerman expresses during the 911 call:
Dispatcher: What address are you parked in front of?
Zimmerman: I don't know. It's a cut through, so I don't know the address.
Another point commonly raised against Zimmerman is that he was carrying a gun, contrary to the guidelines for neighborhood watch volunteers. But according to the Sanford Police Department's Q&A on the case, Zimmerman, who has a carry permit, was heading to Target on an errand when he spotted Martin and decided he looked "real suspicious." It is not clear whether Zimmerman also carried his gun on regular patrols, when volunteers are supposed to serve as the "eyes and ears" of police, rather than pursuing or confronting suspects. Zimmerman admits following Martin, at least up to a point, although he claims Martin approached him and started a fight as he was heading back to his SUV. As I've said before, Zimmerman's actions were at least reckless, since he needlessly created the circumstances that led to Martin's death, but it remains unclear whether they were criminal. It seems increasingly likely that question ultimately will be settled by a jury.
The transcript of Zimmerman's 911 call is here.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.