You’ve got to feel sorry for poor old George Zimmerman. 26 February 2012 must have been a rough day for him. Think about it. It’s evening and rainy when he sets off on an undisclosed errand completely unrelated to his volunteer work as a neighborhood watchman. We don’t know what his mission is exactly—presumably it isn’t stalking and killing the neighborhood kids—but for some reason it is imperative that he carry his gun with him. On his way there good citizen George spots a “fuckin’ coon” (or “goon” as his black friend insists) clearly up to no good. “A real suspicious guy … on drugs or sump’n … walkin’ around, lookin’ about … starin’ at all the houses ….” Yes, an obvious menace. Curious George decides to follow him, keep an eye on the menacing “asshole” in the gray hoody—it wouldn’t do to let him get away, you know, what with all that walkin’ and lookin’ and starin’. And from his SUV he uses his cell phone to call the emergency in to the authorities.
While he’s doing it the “fuckin’ goon,” also speaking to somebody on his cell phone (ain’t the future grand), spots him and takes a good look at him, then heads off at a brisk pace. “These assholes, they always get away,” George sighs in resignation, as he follows him in his car. Just doing his civic duty, old George is, taking time out from his mysterious mission that somehow involved carrying a gun to stalk a real suspicious guy. Probably on drugs. Or sump’n.
“Shit, he’s runnin’.” Yes, the mysterious stranger in the gray hoody has taken off running. The prophecy turns out true; the asshole is getting away. That’s right, our George has lost his quarry and another “fuckin’ goon” has escaped to look around and walk about and stare at houses another day. What a disappointment for him. While civic-minded George Z makes arrangements to meet an officer that has been dispatched to take care of the emergency he must be regretting the time he’s had to take away from his mission—the one involving the gun. Confused and disoriented he tries to figure out exactly where he is. Unable to read a street sign from inside his car, he steps outside.
Fortunately for him he takes his gun with him. Fortunately, I say, because as he returns to his car he is abruptly confronted by the mysterious hooded stranger that he thought had gotten away.
“What are you following me for?” the stranger demands.
“Hey, do you live here? What are you doing here?” George counters.
Little did he know that the hooded stranger had ninja-like powers—at least that’s the only explanation for what happens next. Somehow the “goon” gets behind him and—despite having a cell phone in one hand and a bag of skittles and a can of iced tea as well—bashes him in the back of the head with some kind of weapon. Helpless, on his back, pinned down by the hooded stranger who weighs a hundred pounds less than he does, George does the only thing he can—he shouts for help, in a voice that sounds strangely unlike his own. No help comes—though people are now frantically dialing 911 in the immediate vicinity. But George doesn’t know this. And that’s when it suddenly occurs to him. He has a weapon.
Yes, fortunately he was carrying his gun on that other errand, the one he was really on when he spotted the “goon” acting suspiciously and walkin’ about. And even more fortunately he had taken it along with him when he went to check out that street sign. Yes, against all reason and odds he actually has it now in his possession—so he falls back on it as a last resort. He draws his gun and shoots the hooded stranger in the chest.
The shot is fatal. It is the one piece of luck old George has had all day—well, unless you count the miracle of his having his gun along with him. And even better, he’s got off from the life-and-death struggle relatively unscathed—a gash in the back of the head and a broken nose. The mysterious stranger in the gray hoody is now lying face down in the grass.
After the adrenaline rush of the fight has passed, surely cold reality must have set in. It must have been a bleak moment for George. The man he’s just killed is young, a teenager, probably a neighborhood kid. George outweighs him by a good hundred pounds. He is unarmed, while George is carrying a gun. And all he has as a defense is a story so implausible that he himself could hardly have believed it if he hadn’t been there—a story with as many holes in it as the Albert Hall (as Nick Danger would put it).
When the police arrive, he does the only thing he can think of. He claims that he was acting in self-defense. It isn’t plausible, as George is on record following the kid; any confrontation will thereby be on his head. But here George Zimmerman really lucks out. You see, Florida has a bizarre law on the books that makes a person “immune from criminal prosecution and civil action” if he claims to have been acting in self-defense. The police “may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.” Although the law allows for investigators to “use standard procedures” in looking into such a case, the local police seem to have concluded that it prevented them from making any kind of investigation. They rule it self-defense without even having determined the most basic of facts—such as who the dead boy is. They send him to the morgue as John Doe.
Despite this, however, George’s ordeal is only beginning. You see, the dead boy was indeed part of a local family, a kid named Trayvon Martin, and he was on a mission that rainy evening. He was off to buy Skittles and iced tea before watching a sports event on television. Nothing obviously sinister about it. His record was good, and he was generally liked. His family, his neighbors, other residents of his town, his state, his nation, his world—all find George’s narrative of stalking the teenager and then killing him in self-defense somewhat, well, hard to swallow.
Outrage builds. George hunkers down, hoping things will blow over. Then the first death threats arrive. The police plaintively back him up: He said it was self-defense. Nobody said it wasn’t. Our hands are tied by the state. What else could we do—actually investigate the matter? You have to understand that when a survivor of a fight says he was acting in self-defense, we have no choice but to accept his word for it, no questions asked. It’s the law. Somehow people aren’t buying it. The authorities release his 911 call, along with those of various neighbors. For some reason it only seems to make things worse. People manage to misunderstand George’s affectionate references to “fuckin’ goons” and “assholes” as slurs of some kind. It’s unfair, and damned unfortunate. The police chief steps aside, and outside investigators are brought in. Will they understand the situation the way the local police had?
George examines his options. They are not good. Stalking and then killing a child doesn't look good on your resume, not even when you do it in self-defense. People want blood. His blood. It’s going to take time for people to forget, and for Fox News to spin him into some kind of hero. A modern-day Bernhard Goetz. It looks like his best option is to go into hiding.
I guess you could call it self-defense. Or sump’n.
Weekend Reading, 3/25/2015 - I was going to title this post "For the bookworms," but what I recommend in this post are not books. So what would the online equivalent be? *In any case...
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