New Witness is Old Witness Who Saw Part of Fight But Didn’t See Start of Fight

Back on February 27, Fox Orlando reported on a local shooting that happened the night before:

A man who witnessed part of the altercation contacted authorities.

“The guy on the bottom, who had a red sweater on, was yelling to me, ‘Help! Help!’ and I told him to stop, and I was calling 911,” said the witness, who asked to be identified only by his first name, John.

John said he locked his patio door, ran upstairs and heard at least one gun shot.

“And then, when I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on the top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point.”

This corroborates a few details we already know. There was a fight. George Zimmerman was wearing a red jacket. Zimmerman was the man yelling for help on the 911 tapes. His back was wet and covered with grass. He was bleeding out the nose and the back of his head.

It does not, however, tell us anything new.

Which didn’t stop Fox Tampa Bay (85 miles away) from running this version of the same story — with the same video — Friday night:

A witness we haven’t heard from before paints a much different picture than we’ve seen so far of what happened the night 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed.

The night of that shooting, police say there was a witness who saw it all.

Well, no. The police don’t say that at all. The witness doesn’t say it. Only Fox Tampa Bay says it.

Well, Fox Tampa Bay and the Daily Mail — which rewrote the local Fox story and added this fun twist:

This account is drastically different from the portrait painted of Martin by his friends and acquaintances.

Judge that for yourself, but the account does not conflict with what Trayvon’s girlfriend said he was telling her on the phone at that moment:

“Trayvon said, ‘What are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What are you doing here.’ Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell. I called him again, and he didn’t answer the phone.”

Only two people know for certain how that fight started. One isn’t talking, and the other isn’t able to. Anything else you hear is, as we say in the journalism biz, bullshit.


Tangentially related, I watched The Trials of Michael Jackson last night. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was hoping that another crappy production would negate my Twin Peaks trauma/pissedoffedness.

I was surprised by what I saw: A wife-husband team eventually turned their cameras on the media rather than on the much-derided fans. When they decided to start shooting, they thought their documentary would be humorous, but it quickly became serious and prompted interesting soul searching on the part of the filmmakers.

Illustrative was some dude from CNN, filming a piece about the conviction before the verdict was reached. An actual journalist filmed a lie in order to have a scoop.

They also filmed TV journalists speaking to the fans, trying to win their trust by agreeing with them and lying about having common ground with them, and the filmmakers twisted those unfortunately-successful attempts with on-air coverage revealing their true motivations and probably what they thought the viewers wanted to see. It was night and day, manipulation, what makes “good” TV that keeps up ratings and increases ad money, provides job security, is an ambition stepping stone, all on the backs of people who supported Michael Jackson for whatever reason. Disgusting.

So, what does that documentary have to do with the murder of Travyon? Money talks. Bullshit walks. The media cannot be trusted.

@JNOVw00tah: Or, at least, not taken at face value.

In this case, I’m taking the Tampa Bay report as lazy writing. They needed to repackage month-old footage, so they goosed it as a new witness who saw it all. The Daily Mail likely picked up that spin for its rewrite story, and we were off to the races.

Wingnut bloggers then ran with that spin yesterday, triumphantly proclaiming that Trayvon was the thug they all knew him to be. The witness proves it!

Even liberal Washington Monthly accepted the premise, and argued that witnesses are notoriously unreliable, so pay no attention.

In all this, nobody thought to chase down the source of the repackaged Tampa Bay report and dope out what the witness actually said.

It works in the other direction, too. Everybody’s taking it as a given that Zimmerman continued pursuing Trayvon after the 911 operator advised him not to. I presumed as much when I was compiling Friday’s just-the-facts post — and then realized that the 911 tape does not demonstrate that. There’s no “I’m still chasing him” comment after Zimmerman is warned away.

Zimmerman says he was ambushed walking back to his pickup. Trayvon’s girlfriend says Trayvon told her on the phone that Zimmerman confronted him. That’s all we have. Girlfriend gets the benefit of my doubt, but we can’t be certain. There’s no recording of that phone call. Just confirmation (from the phone company) that it happened.

And did Zimmerman call Trayvon a “fucking coon” on the 911 tape? It was a Kos blogger who initially made the claim. I can’t hear it; others say they can.

It’s really, really hard to stick to known facts in this case. Every nuance is being mined to support one side or the other. I’m with Trayvon, but I want to be very careful about making claims that go beyond the known (and knowable) facts.

Meanwhile, there are real new witnesses:

Cutcher and her roommate, Selma Lamilla, say they went outside when they heard the gunshot and saw Zimmerman standing over Martin.

“We both saw him straddling the body, basically, a foot on both sides of Trayvon’s body and his hands pressed on his back,” Cutcher said.

Cutcher says Zimmerman told her and her roommate to call the police.

“Zimmerman never turned him over or tried to help him or CPR or anything,” Cutcher said.

Lamilla said that after the shot was fired Zimmerman appeared to be pacing.

“He started walking back and forth like three times with his hand on the head and kind of, he was walking like kind of confused,” she said.

Lamilla said he was touching his head like “he was in shock.”

Anything new? Not really. We know that Trayvon was found face-down, hands underneath. That Zimmerman didn’t try to help him may be sensational, but I don’t think it’s obviously telling.

And: The witnesses didn’t see the shot being fired.

I’m not aware of any forensics report. And I’ve been wondering since reading the face-down description in the police reports whether Trayvon was shot in the back. I’ve been wondering, in effect, whether he tried to run away after the fight alerted the neighbors.

If Zimmerman’s on his back on the grass, how does he pull out his gun? If he’s able to pull out his gun with Trayvon on top of him, how does Trayvon not fall on him?

Or you can envision it in Zimmerman’s favor: They both get up after witnesses see Zimmerman on his back, Trayvon charges Zimmerman again, Zimmerman shoots, Trayvon falls toward Zimmerman.

Maybe there is a forensics report that hasn’t been mentioned or released. If not, that’s damning evidence of the local PD’s incompetence.

@nojo: Zimmerman had a in the waistband (IWB) holster. It would be possible for someone to hold another person off with non-shooting hand while drawing one’s Roscoe. We don’t know when the shooter pulled his weapon, however.

It’s my understanding that if you’re holding someone on the ground that you would want to see where their hands are, so an execution on the ground may not be the answer here. What apparently happened: Martin gets off Zimmerman. Zimmerman draws and fires at Martin, Martin’s hands fly to the wound (entrance if shot facing Zimmerman, exit if shot in the back) as he falls face forward to the ground.

What was Zimmerman doing standing over Martin? Applying direct pressure to the wound? (no blood on his hands mentioned in the police report.) Holding his gun to Martin’s back? Checking on the guy he just shot?

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