Robert Zimmerman said several break-ins had happened in the neighborhood and his son became suspicious that someone would be walking on a rainy day between the town homes. When he called police dispatchers, they asked for an address, his father said. He wasn’t sure what street he was on so despite police advising him to stop following Martin, he continued so he could get an address, his father said.
Martin’s supporters, including a host of outspoken celebrities and civil rights leaders who have appeared on television for the past two weeks, don’t believe Zimmerman’s story. They want him arrested and prosecuted, and his parents think their son is being painted in a negative light by a police department leaking information to the news media.
The teenager was suspended from school three times this year. In October, he wrote obscene graffiti on a door at his high school. During a search of his backpack, campus security officers found 12 pieces of jewelry, a watch and a screwdriver that they thought could be used as a burglary tool, according to a school police report obtained by the Miami Herald.
When campus security confronted Martin, he told them a friend had given him the jewelry, but he wouldn’t give a name. The Miami-Dade Police Department said Tuesday the jewelry could not be tied to any reported thefts.
Martin had previously been suspended for excessive absences and tardiness and, at the time of his death, was serving a 10-day suspension after school officials found an empty plastic bag with marijuana traces in his backpack.
His parents spent Tuesday at a forum organized by Congress on racial profiling and hate crimes. They spoke briefly before a Democrats-only congressional panel as cameras clicked noisily in front of them.
Speaking Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Joe Oliver said Zimmerman is not a racist and has virtually lost his own life since the shooting.
“This is a guy who thought he was doing the right thing at the time, and it’s turned out horribly wrong,” said Oliver, one of the few blacks to come forward in support of Zimmerman.
“It makes you feel a little bit safe but knowing what happened and everything, it’s kind of like confusing in a way. We don’t want people to be in the neighborhood. You have kids running around. You don’t want robberies going down,” Rodriguez said.
Mohr reported from Jackson, Miss. Hutchinson reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writer Kyle Hightower in Orlando, Fla., contributed to this report.
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