- - Monday, March 26, 2012

SANFORD, Fla. — Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school for having marijuana when the unarmed teenager was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, a family spokesman said Monday.

Trayvon, 17, was suspended by Miami-Dade County schools because traces of marijuana were found in a plastic baggie in his book bag, family spokesman Ryan Julison said. Florida media also reported Monday that a marijuana pipe was found in the bag.

Trayvon was shot Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman while he was visiting Sanford with his father.

Also Monday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that it was actually Trayvon who attacked Mr. Zimmerman on the fatal night, as the gunman, who has become the object of national outrage, began to get out his side of the story.

George Zimmerman suffered a broken nose, and had an injury to the back of his head; he was attacked by Trayvon Martin on that evening,” Craig Sonner, Mr. Zimmerman’s attorney, told ABC News. “This was a case of self-defense.”

State and federal agencies are investigating the shooting, with a grand jury set to convene April 10. Because Trayvon was black and Mr. Zimmerman, 28, is not (his father is white, his mother Hispanic), the case has become a racial flash point that has led to a series of protests in Sanford and around the country, including comment from President Obama and bounty calls from the Black Panthers.

But according to police reports cited in the Sentinel, Mr. Zimmerman was walking back to his vehicle after having lost Trayvon when the youth approached him from behind. The two exchanged words, Mr. Zimmerman said, and Trayvon then punched him in the nose, jumped on top of him and began banging his head on a sidewalk. Mr. Zimmerman said he began crying for help and then shot Trayvon in the chest.

“One witness, who has since talked to local television news reporters, told police he saw Zimmerman on the ground with Trayvon on top, pounding him — and was unequivocal that it was Zimmerman who was crying for help,” the Sentinel reported.

The Sanford police said the newspaper story was “consistent” with evidence turned over to prosecutors. Police arrived just two minutes after the shooting and quickly determined that Mr. Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose, had a swollen lip and had bloody lacerations to the back of his head.

The picture of Trayvon promoted by the family as the angelic victim of a racist vigilante took another hit Monday when the Miami Herald reported he also had been suspended previously from Miami-Dade schools for a graffiti offense.

When officials searched his bag, 12 pieces of women’s jewelry and a flathead screwdriver described in a school report as a “burglary tool” were found inside. Trayvon was not punished over the jewelry, which he said belonged to someone else he declined to name.

In another development, city officials named a 23-year veteran of the Sanford police department as acting chief. The appointment of Capt. Darren Scott, who is black, came days after Chief Bill Lee, who is white, temporarily stepped down as the agency endured withering criticism over its handling of the case.

“I know each one of you — and everyone watching — would like to have a quick, positive resolution to this recent event,” Capt. Scott told reporters. “However, I must say we have a system in place, a legal system. It may not be perfect but it’s the only one we have. I urge everyone to let the system take its course.”

Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and family attorneys blamed police for leaking the information about the marijuana to the news media in an effort to demonize the teenager.

“The only comment that I have right now is that they killed my son and now they’re trying to kill his reputation,” Mrs. Fulton told reporters.

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