Much has been made of how the small town Sanford, Florida Police department bungled the initial investigation on the night George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin inside the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community.

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Exposed for their inability to handle such an investigation, a New York Times editorial piece highlighted the countless missteps, sloppy work and circumstances beyond their control that may have impeded the on-going investigation.

In interviews over several weeks, law enforcement authorities, witnesses and local elected officials identified problems with the initial investigation:

1. On the night of the shooting, door-to-door canvassing was not exhaustive enough, said a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

If officers had been more thorough, they might have determined that Trayvon, was a guest — as opposed to an intruder — at a gated community called the Retreat at Twin Lakes. That would have been an important part of the subjective analysis that night by officers sizing up Zimmerman’s story. Investigators found no witnesses who saw the fight start.

Others saw parts of a struggle they could not clearly observe or hear. One witness, though, provided information to the police that corroborated Zimmerman’s account of the struggle, according to a law enforcement official.

2. The police took only one photo at the scene of any of Zimmerman’s injuries — a full-face picture of him that showed a bloodied nose — before paramedics tended to him.

It was shot on a department cell-phone camera and was not downloaded for a few days, an oversight by the officer who took it.

3. The vehicle that Zimmerman was driving when he first spotted Trayvon was mistakenly not secured by officers as part of the crime scene.

The vehicle was an important link in the fatal encounter because it was where Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious teenager in a hooded sweatshirt roaming through the Retreat. Zimmerman also said he was walking back to the vehicle when he was confronted by Trayvon, who was unarmed, before shooting him.

4. The police were not able to cover the crime scene to shield evidence from the rain, and any blood from cuts that Zimmerman suffered when he said Trayvon pounded his head into a sidewalk may have been washed away.

5. The police did not test Zimmerman for alcohol or drug use that night, and one witness said the lead investigator quickly jumped to a conclusion that it was Zimmerman, and not Trayvon, who cried for help during the struggle.

The Sanford police claim that their 16-day investigation, done in consultation with the original prosecutor in the case, was detailed and impartial, however their inability to get the password for Trayvon’s cell phone was a significant piece of evidence considering that Trayvon had been talking to his girlfriend moments before he was killed.

From what is known of the investigation combined with Zimmerman’s account, sloppy police work and the available evidence, what exactly happened on that rainy night may remain a mystery.


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