The brief news item about an unarmed 17-year-old from Miami Gardens shot dead while visiting his father in Sanford, Florida, caught my critic’s eye from Day 1. As details unfolded — Trayvon Martin was walking back home from a convenience store with nothing but a can of Arizona Iced Tea and Skittles in his pockets on a rainy night when he encountered the neighborhood watchman – I knew something sinister had occurred.
You see, not long before that, I had driven into my neighborhood well past midnight and seen my young son-in-law jogging carefree. I should say here, my young, white son-in-law. He had been doing this every night, he told me, to exercise and let off steam after his long cook’s shift.
“Aren’t you afraid?” I asked.
“Why?” he said.
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“Has anyone in the neighborhood or the gate guard asked what you’re doing out at this hour?”
And the one thing that occurred to me at that moment was that, had this been my African-American son-in-law out at midnight, the police would’ve been called to inquire who he was and what he was doing.
Trayvon was black; the wanna-be cop Zimmerman, a white Hispanic.
The Trayvon Martin murder case has always been about prejudice and rage – and the deadly results when the two combine.
But it was tough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a Central Florida jury that George Zimmerman harbored those feelings and acted upon them when he stalked, confronted, and shot to death a teenager minding his own business, being where he belonged, in his father’s neighborhood.
Five years after his acquittal, Zimmerman has eluded justice but not his killing of Trayvon — and certainly not who he is. All of these years, Zimmerman has been showing us that he’s an angry, prejudiced man who got away with murder.
He has been involved in road rage and domestic violence acts against the women in his life, who, scared to death, later fail to follow through and charges are dropped. He flaunts his Confederate flag paintings and associations with white nationalist types who donated money to his defense and personal upkeep.
He stalked Trayvon, and now, he has been charged with stalking and harassing private investigator Dennis Warren, hired by the company Cinemart Productions to track down people to participate in a documentary about Trayvon’s death.
After Zimmerman learned his family had been contacted, Warren says, he received 21 phone calls, 38 text messages, and seven voicemails in just over two hours from Zimmerman, most of them threatening and belligerent.
Warren asked Zimmerman to stop, as police advised him, but he continued, texting an article in which he was quoted as saying: "I know how to handle people who f--- with me, I have since February 2012 [when he killed Trayvon]." And: "Anyone who f---s with my parents will be fed to an alligator."
And here’s another gem Zimmerman sent to the documentary’s producer in an apparent threat to harm Warren’s wife: "Help Mrs. Warren out and give him a heads up, I'm going to find him. And I'm bringing hell with me." He also said Warren was "on his way to the inside of a gator as well. 10-4?"
Called by a female Seminole County sergeant who also intervened in his domestic violence cases, he called her a “whore” and worse.
“You f------ c---, what do you want?”
“What are you calling me for you f------ whore?”
And, instead of showing remorse for the life he took, Zimmerman referred to Trayvon in a derogatory manner as “the Martin kid.” Scheduled for arraignment May 30, Zimmerman seems even more emboldened these days to act like the thug he is. One can only hope that he doesn't beat this rap as easily as all the others, but it's only a misdemeanor charge.
Zimmerman killed somebody’s son, somebody’s brother in a state that gives too many rights to people who don’t value all life equally. These are the same people who play the rhetoric game against Planned Parenthood but support people who shoot their guns when it’s not a last-resort action, not a matter of self-defense, as Zimmerman alleged.
Zimmerman had many opportunities to retreat — and didn’t. He was told not to engage Trayvon — and he did. He's had opportunities to rebuild his life for the good — and hasn't.
We’ve seen all these years the rage that gripped him when he stalked the black teenager, covering his head from the rain with a hoodie, for merely looking “suspicious.”
People will say that what can be surmised by all of this post-verdict behavior falls in the hindsight-is-20-20 category, but this same Zimmerman was there since the beginning of this case for all who cared to look beyond the “Georgie” persona his family built.
And it will stand as a stain on the Florida justice system that the jury didn’t see it.
Follow me on Twitter @fabiolasantiago.