Zimmerman Trial: Myth Busters: Did Zimmerman disobey police orders to stay in car?

One of the many untruths in the Zimmerman case that has been vigorously disseminated and ingrained into the public consciousness is, variously, that Zimmerman “chased/followed” Martin against police orders, or that he exited his vehicle after being told to stay inside the vehicle, or other variations of this theme.
This narrative has continued, with the full-hearted support of the mainstream media and its hundreds of “investigative reporters” despite the fact that even a cursory review of the evidence clearly shows this narrative to be patently false.

We know this because we have a real-time audio recording of the events in the form of Zimmerman’s non-emergency phone call to the Sanford Police Department to report a suspicious person in his neighborhood.   (Only a small portion of this recording is relevant to this post, and it is linked just prior to the transcript, below.  A link to the full recording of Zimmerman’s non-emergency call to police is at the bottom of this post.)

Making this call was a responsibility that fell to Zimmerman in part as a function of having been selected by his community to head their Neighborhood Watch program.  Such programs have advisors from the local police department–in this case, two from SPD–and they had instructed Zimmerman to phone the non-emergency number if he saw something suspicious.

In the full length recording, available here, one can hear a calm but concerned Zimmerman speaking to the dispatcher about his concerns of a suspicious character [Martin] he has just spotted in the neighborhood.  For the first two minutes of the call Zimmerman calmly answers the dispatchers questions about Martin’s appearance, approximate location, the fact that Martin has become aware that he is under observation and started circling Zimmerman’s car, and so forth.

At about the two minute mark Martin runs, and Zimmerman loses sight of him.  The following exchange occurs between the Zimmerman and the dispatcher (This relevant portion of the non-emergency call can be heard here.


Zimmerman:  Shit, he’s running.

Dispatcher:  He’s running?  Which way is he running?

[Sound of car door opening.]

Zimmerman:  [Grunts.]  Down towards the other entrance of the neighborhood.

[Sound of car door closing.]

Dispatcher:  OK, and which entrance is that he’s heading towards.

Zimmerman:  The back entrance. . . .  [mutters] Fucking punks [puddles?].

[Wind/breathing noise.]

Dispatcher:  Are you following him?

Zimmerman:  Yeah.

Dispatcher:  OK, we don’t need you to do that.

Zimmerman:  OK.


At no time was Zimmerman ever told to stay in his car by the “police,” (actually, he was speaking with a dispatcher totally lacking law enforcement powers, but set that aside). Further, when Zimmerman did exit the vehicle it was in direct response to the dispatcher asking him to report the direction of Martin’s travel.  Because Martin had run around the corner of a building and was now out of sight, Zimmerman exited the vehicle in order to be able to observe where Martin had gone.

Even when the dispatcher sensed that Zimmerman had exited the vehicle he still did not given any orders to Zimmerman at all, merely suggesting “OK, we don’t need you to do that.” Indeed, the dispatcher would testify at trial that dispatchers are prohibited from giving orders over the phone because they are not physically on the scene and may inadvertently direct the caller into greater danger.

And Zimmerman’s response to this suggestion? Compliance. “OK.” There is literally zero evidence–none–that Zimmerman continued to follow Trayvon after this point. Indeed, Martin would ultimately launch his attack on Zimmerman right at the corner of the building where Zimmerman complied with the dispatcher’s suggestion, despite having had more than enough time to achieve the safety of his father’s girlfriend’s condo, had he truly been fleeing from a frightening Zimmerman. (See, “Myth Busters: Did Zimmerman “Chase Down” a Fleeing Martin?”)

So, the myth that Zimmerman disobeyed police orders to stay in his car? Busted. The myth that Zimmerman continued to follow Martin after being ordered not to? Also, busted.

Link to full recording of Zimmerman non-emergency call to police, February 26, 2012:

For comprehensive coverage of the Zimmerman trial, see: “The Zimmerman Files: Aggregated day-by-day live coverage & analysis.”

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