Trayvon Martin: Sources say police wanted charges filed

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SANFORD, Fla. —

WFTV learned on Friday that Sanford police did recommend Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, be charged, possibly with manslaughter, but it didn't happen.

And, on Friday, staffers with State Attorney Angela Corey suggested to WFTV’s Daralene Jones that a grand jury may not be involved in the case.

Several sources confirmed for WFTV that Sanford police thought Zimmerman should have been arrested for shooting and killing 17-year-old Martin.



Sources said Sanford police recommended State Attorney Norm Wolfinger review a possible manslaughter charge against Zimmerman.

“Why would Norm Wolfinger sit on this?” Jones asked WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.

“From my experience, it's possible he didn't have enough evidence, and once you make an arrest, the speedy trial clock starts,” said Sheaffer.

That clock means Zimmerman has the right to go to trial within 175 days of his arrest. According to Sheaffer that would have put prosecutors in a bind to hurry and gather enough evidence to make the charge stick.

“Several sources have confirmed for us that Sanford police turned over an investigative summary packet that included a charge of manslaughter. Can you confirm that?” Jones asked lead prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda.

“I'm not going to confirm or deny anything other than what I've told you,” said De la Rionda.

De la Rionda is the lead prosecutor now in charge of the investigation that will determine if Zimmerman will be charged.

“We're going to get to the truth, one way or another,” said De la Rionda.

Gov. Rick Scott appointed Angela Corey out of Duval County, the Jacksonville area, to take over the case, amid concerns it has been mishandled.

“Will you start from scratch, or do you work with what you've been given?” Jones asked De la Rionda.

“We're going to do three things. First thing is review everything that's already been done. Second thing is determine what else needs to be done from our opinion. And then we'll make a decision," he said.


Changes at the Sanford Police Department


Two Sanford Police captains have been appointed to temporarily run the department.

Police Capts. Darren Scott and Bob O'Connor will run the department during the absence of Bill Lee.

On Thursday Lee announced that he was temporarily removing himself as police chief.

WFTV’s Jeff Deal learned that Lee, just before he stepped down as chief, promoted five other officers.

The city manager confirmed the promotions and said the officers completed the promotion process at the end of last month.

Some of those promoted have been involved in cases that have made the news.

John Labree, John Foshee, and Steven Lynch were promoted to sergeant. Two current sergeants, Tony Esoss and Randy Smith were promoted to lieutenants.

Smith was head of investigations when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

Steven Lynch was the officer who shot and killed suspect Nicholas Scott in 2010 after Scott allegedly tried to run him down.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement decided that the shooting was justified.

John Foshee made headlines that same year after someone stole his M4 assault rifle from his car in Volusia County.

Friday the city manager also introduced the two captains who will now lead the police department.

The captains were not allowed to answer questions.

The city manager refused to say how much the officers made and how much salaries will increase.

The city’s new public relations person, Lisa Mosca, even ran from WFTV’s camera when reporter Jeff Deal tried to ask a few questions about the promotions. 

The chief is continuing to collect his $100,000-a-year salary while on leave.

The city has also hired Massey Communications, a public relations firm, to help handle the Trayvon Martin situation, but the city is refusing to say how much it is paying the firm.


The President comments on the case


On Friday, President Barack Obama called the shooting death of Trayvon Martin a "tragedy" and said "every aspect" of the case should be investigated.

When asked about the death of Martin the president said he felt sorry for Martin's parents and said "every parent in America" should understand why it is "absolutely imperative" that the case is investigated.

"I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this happened. That means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident. But, my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son he would look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we will get to the bottom of exactly what happened," said Obama.

Friday afternoon, Martin's parents thanked the President for his words. They said, “It is humbling that President Obama took time from his busy schedule to talk about Trayvon…The president's personal comments touched us deeply and made us wonder: if his son looked like Trayvon and wore a hoodie, would he be suspicious too?”

The Justice Department and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation and a grand jury is considering whether to charge gunman George Zimmerman.