MIAMI/ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – FBI interviews with dozens of friends, coworkers and neighbors of George Zimmerman found no evidence that the accused murderer of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was a racist, according to new documents released on Thursday.
The reports from the FBI were among a new collection of evidence, including crime scene photos, bank surveillance videos and other documents, that were released by Florida’s state attorney’s office in the racially charged case.
Zimmerman, a 28-year-old who is white and Hispanic, is charged with second-degree murder in the February 26 shooting death of Martin, a 17-year-old black teen.
A neighborhood watch volunteer, Zimmerman claims he killed Martin in self defense after the unarmed youth attacked him and slammed his head into the sidewalk during a confrontation in a gated community in the central Florida city of Sanford.
He is currently living in an undisclosed safe house after being released on $1 million bail last week.
FBI agents investigating whether race was a factor in the shooting spoke with Sanford police officers, Zimmerman’s bosses and colleagues, friends, neighbors and others to determine if he had ever shown any racial prejudice.
In one interview detailed in the evidence, Sanford Police Detective Christopher Serino, the lead investigator in the Martin case, told the FBI he did not believe Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin was motivated by race.
“Serino believed that Zimmerman’s actions were not based on Martin’s skin color (but) rather based on his attire,” according to a report.
Serino told investigators that members of local gangs, who called themselves “Goons,” frequently wore “hoodies,” or hooded sweatshirts, and he believed Zimmerman “took it upon himself to view Martin as acting suspicious.”
Martin was wearing a hoodie and returning from a convenience store when Zimmerman called a 911 dispatcher and said the teen looked suspicious and then followed him.
Serino described Zimmerman as “overzealous” and having a “little hero complex.” He submitted a report to Sanford police officials and the state attorney’s office saying there was sufficient probable cause to arrest and charge Zimmerman with manslaughter.
Martin’s killing drew national attention after police and prosecutors initially declined to arrest and charge Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law and his claim that he used deadly force because he believed his life was being threatened.
The documents do not provide any blockbuster evidence but include additional details about the shooting and more insight into Zimmerman’s personal life.