In late 2010 and early 2011 George Zimmerman, the Hispanic Sanford, Fla., man who shot and killed 17-year-old black teen Trayvon Martin, publicly demanded discipline in a race-related beating case for at least two of the police officers who cleared him after the Feb. 26 altercation, according to records obtained by The Daily Caller.
In a letter to Seminole County NAACP president Turner Clayton, a member of the Zimmerman family wrote that George was one of “very few” in Sanford who publicly condemned the “beating of the black homeless man Sherman Ware on Dec. 4, 2010, by the son of a Sanford police officer,” who is white.
TheDC has confirmed the identity of the Zimmerman family member who wrote the letter but is withholding that person’s specific identity out of concern for the family’s safety.
On Dec. 4, 2010, Justin Collison, the son of Sanford Police Department Lt. Chris Collison, was involved in a bar fight at The Wet Spot bar in Sanford. During the fight, which moved from indoors to outdoors, the younger Collison struck Ware.
Ware suffered a concussion, and paramedics took him to the hospital shortly after police arrived on the scene. Collison was not arrested or charged, even though an onlooker had video evidence of his actions.
No arrest was made and no action taken for weeks. Documents and emails now show police officers and officials from the office of the State Attorney operated with extreme caution because Collison’s father was a high-ranking law enforcement officer.
In the final days of 2010, an Orlando television station aired the video footage of Justin Collison beating Ware. Collison turned himself in six days later, on Jan. 3, 2011. He agreed to pay for Ware’s medical bills and make donations to nonprofit organizations, including the NAACP. (RELATED: Full coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting)
After Justin Collison surrendered himself to authorities, the Sanford Police Department struggled to hold its officials accountable. A lengthy investigation conducted by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office concluded that the police officials involved did not offer Justin Collison “preferential treatment.”
Still, according to members of the Zimmerman family, George printed and distributed copies of fliers on bright fluorescent-colored paper demanding that the community “hold accountable” officers responsible for any misconduct. TheDC has obtained a copy of one of those fliers.
“Do you know the individual that stepped up when no one else in the black community would?” the Zimmerman family member asked in the letter to the NAACP’s Clayton.
“Do you know who spent tireless hours putting fliers on the cars of persons parked in the churches of the black community? Do you know who waited for the church‐goers to get out of church so that he could hand them fliers in an attempt to organize the black community against this horrible miscarriage of justice? Do you know who helped organize the City Hall meeting on January 8th, 2011 at Sanford City Hall??”
“That person was GEORGE ZIMMERMAN,” the letter insisted. “Ironic isn’t it?”
Every Sunday, according to his family, Zimmerman would stroll through Sanford’s black neighborhoods handing out the fliers demanding justice for Sherman Ware, and calling for the police to hold their own officials accountable. Zimmerman would also place the fliers on people’s cars outside churches.
“I challenge you to stand together and to have our voices heard, and to hold accountable all of those officers, and officials whom let this atrocious attack pass unpunished until the media revealed it,” one of the fliers reads in part. “This animal could have attacked anyone of us, our children or loved ones in his alcohol fueled rage.”
The officers whom Zimmerman targeted for accountability in the Sherman Ware incident were all cleared by the Seminole County Sheriff’s investigation, despite Zimmerman’s repeated accusations that police gave kid-glove treatment to a white officer’s son who beat a defenseless, homeless black man.
But 14 months later, at least two of the same officers investigated the shooting death of Trayvon Martin — and cleared Zimmerman — even though his voice was the loudest calling for their punishment in the Ware case.
One of those officers was Timothy Smith. According to a police incident report from the scene of the Feb. 26 shooting, Officer Smith handcuffed Zimmerman and transported him to the police station. Another was Sergeant Anthony Raimondo, who was on scene with Smith and other local officers.
At least one liberal media outlet — the self-described African-American news outlet NewsOne — has framed the story in a different light.
On March 19, NewsOne argued that the Sherman Ware incident illustrates a pattern of mistreatment of black victims by the Sanford Police Department.
”They [Sanford police] have a history of NOT arresting offenders who assault black men,” the article’s author declared.