As thousands of people gathered here to demand an arrest in the Trayvon Martin case, a more complicated portrait began to emerge of a teenager whose problems at school ranged from getting spotted defacing lockers to getting caught with a marijuana baggie and womens jewelry.
The Miami Gardens teen who has become a national symbol of racial injustice was suspended three times, and had a spotty school record that his familys attorneys say is irrelevant to the facts that led up to his being gunned down on Feb. 26.
In October, a school police investigator said he saw Trayvon on the school surveillance camera in an unauthorized area hiding and being suspicious. Then he said he saw Trayvon mark up a door with W.T.F an acronym for what the f---. The officer said he found Trayvon the next day and went through his book bag in search of the graffiti marker.
Instead the officer reported he found womens jewelry and a screwdriver that he described as a burglary tool, according to a Miami-Dade Schools Police report obtained by The Miami Herald. Word of the incident came as the familys lawyer acknowledged that the boy was suspended in February for getting caught with an empty bag with traces of marijuana, which he called irrelevant and an attempt to demonize a victim.
Trayvons backpack contained 12 pieces of jewelry, in addition to a watch and a large flathead screwdriver, according to the report, which described silver wedding bands and earrings with diamonds.
Trayvon was asked if the jewelry belonged to his family or a girlfriend.
Martin replied its not mine. A friend gave it to me, he responded, according to the report. Trayvon declined to name the friend.
Trayvon was not disciplined because of the discovery, but was instead suspended for graffiti, according to the report. School police impounded the jewelry and sent photos of the items to detectives at Miami-Dade police for further investigation.
A lawyer for the dead teens family acknowledged Trayvon had been suspended for graffiti, but said the family knew nothing about the jewelry and the screwdriver.
Its completely irrelevant to what happened Feb. 26, said attorney Benjamin Crump. They never heard this, and dont believe its true. If it were true, why wouldnt they call the parents? Why wasnt he arrested?
Trayvon, who was a junior at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, had never been arrested, police and the family have said.
We think everybody is trying to demonize him, Crump said.
No evidence ever surfaced that the jewelry was stolen.
Martin was suspended, warned and dismissed for the graffiti, according to the report prepared by schools police.
That suspension was followed four months later by another one in February, in which Trayvon was caught with an empty plastic bag with traces of marijuana in it. A schools police report obtained by The Miami Herald specifies two items: a bag with marijuana residue and a marijuana pipe.
The punishment was the third for the teen. On Monday, the family also said Trayvon had earlier been suspended for tardiness and truancy.
Trayvon was shot to death Feb. 26 while serving out his suspension in Sanford, where his fathers girlfriend lives. A neighborhood watch volunteer called the police to say he saw someone in a hoodie who looked high on drugs, and was suspicious because he walked too slowly in the rain. The unarmed teenager carried Skittles and iced tea, and was talking to his girlfriend on the phone, records show.
Zimmerman told police Trayvon jumped him, punched him in the face and slammed his head on the ground, according to information published by the Orlando Sentinel. The news account came a day after a friend of Zimmermans took to television network programs to say the watchman was the victim in the case.
That sounded like someone in dire need of help, said friend Joe Oliver, referring to cries heard on 911 tapes. That sounded like George.
Zimmermans attorney, Craig Sonner, did not return repeated requests for an interview.
Trayvons parents viewed the new reports as an orchestrated campaign to demonize their son as a junkie and thief, a routine occurrence in such cases, the Rev. Al Sharpton said at an afternoon press conference. Zimmerman, Sharpton said, had no way of knowing about Trayvons school record because he didnt interview him before he shot him.
The only thing thats relevant is what Zimmerman knew, Sharpton said. Lets not play this double standard of trying to damage who is dead and sanitize who is the cause of the death.
Trayvons mother, Sybrina Fulton, said her son never had any problems with gangs or the police. In fact, she said, when she transferred him out of Carol City High School to be closer to home, the school wanted him to stay at Carol City because they liked him and he was a good student.
They killed my son, and now they are trying to kill his reputation, Fulton said.
Another lawyer for the family said she didnt put much credence in the report about the jewelry and the screwdriver.
This is someone in a school writing a report, rumor as far as Im concerned, said attorney Natalie Jackson.
The boys checkered school record was of little importance to the thousands of people who descended on the citys civic center for a special city council meeting. Speaker after speaker blasted the investigation and demanded the police file charges in the case.
We want to reaffirm that we too are in pursuit of truth and justice, Mayor Jeff Triplett said.
Participants included bus and carloads of people from Miami, including some from Trayvons church. Wearing a T-shirt declaring I am a man, Miami Homicide Sgt. Ervens Ford was among them.
This is personal, Ford said. I have a son that age. I am getting ready to release him to the world. I have to expose him to things like this. I also have a 12-year-old. I have to be realistic about it: It very very well could have been either one of them.
Like so many black fathers in America, Ford finds himself schooling his sons on what clothes to wear, what to say to a cop. He calls it conflict resolution.
That man was following him around the way he was, placing Trayvon in fear. Had Travyon shot him and claimed Stand Your Ground, Trayvon would have been arrested, he said. Im saying this having been law enforcement for 25 years. I am saying this, and it is my conviction.
Liberty City activist Renita Holmes attended with about a dozen fellow protesters.
This case broke me, she said. If we continue to do it, it will make a difference. The way we handle this should be a precedent on how we handle every case.