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The many stories of the Trayvon Martin shooting

It began like this:

Investigators with the Sanford Police Department are still trying to figure out exactly what happened during an altercation which resulted in a fatal shooting in the Twin Lakes area.   The shooting happened just after 7 p.m. Sunday evening on Twin Trees Lane.  A man who witnessed part of the altercation contacted authorities.

“The guy on the bottom, who had a red sweater on, was yelling to me, ‘Help! Help!’ and I told him to stop, and I was calling 911,” said the witness, who asked to be identified only by his first name, John.

According to neighbors, George Zimmerman was a member of Neighborhood Watch when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, who was visiting relatives at their gated community in Sanford, FL. This same eyewitness also described Trayvon as “the guy who was on the top beating up the other guy.”

And there the story sat. From February 27, the day after the shooting, when this brief article made it to Orlando Fox affiliate WOFL-TV, until March 8 when the AP wire service ran a slightly longer story, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin lay dead, murdered, and Zimmerman went back to being a criminal justice student at Seminole State College, a free man.

What happened in the meantime? Intrepid reporters looking into the case after interviewing bystanders, many of whom claim it was Trayvon who was being beaten? No. Community activists happened. You know, the ones the GOP likes to snicker at, the ACORN types who help folks with no other recourse to the law. People like Trayvon’s family. They called an “emergency homeowner’s meeting” on March 1, three days after the shooting, to try get some accountability from Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee. Unfortunately, when neighbors tried to complain that Zimmerman had been way too obsessed with “policing” the complex, they were ignored.

It took a full week more of protests from the kind of “community organizers” Rudy Giuliani mocked when attacking Barack Obama during the 2008 election before the media took notice, beginning with that AP wire service story, which ran with the headline Trayvon Martin, Fla. Teen, Killed By Head Of Neighborhood Watch. The Miami Herald, one day later, went with Shooting mystery: Miami-Dade teen killed by a crime watch captain, by which time organziers had already helped the Martin family secure an attorney to begin publicizing the case. The “News in Black” section of the Los Angeles Wave picked up the story, added a paragraph mentioining the spate of police shootings of unarmed black men in recent years, and yet still ran with the headline Outrage builds over fatal shooting of unarmed Black teenager — by a neighborhood watch captain. Where had these people gotten the idea that Zimmerman was a Neighborhood Watch captain? From Zimmerman himself, who considered himself the “self-appointed” leader. But he wasn’t actually registered with any such organization — and even if he had been, he would have been in violation of nearly every one of their rules, starting with the one about not being armed.  The UK media picked up the storyas did the Russians. The news outlets in Trayvon’s own country largely stayed silent.

The next day the black community had fully mobilized, holding a rally at which the mayor of Sanford, a white man named Jeff Triplett, expressed solidarity, and by the next day, the NAACP had asked Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, to look into the matter. By the 15th, Zimmerman had hired his own lawyers, who pushed his self-defense story that an unarmed boy 100 pounds lighter than him was beating him so bad that he feared for his life. Eyewitnesses, however, soon told a different story, which included several common-sense eyewitness observations that the gunshot immediately silenced the screams which were supposedly coming from the gunman. Yet Zimmerman remains free.Three days later, Chief Lee attempted to pacify outraged community leaders by turning the matter over to the Seminole-Brevard State Attorney’s Office for review, after first telling the media that there was “evidence of self-defense.” The day after that, ABC News uncovered several reasons why Lee was eager to hand off the case: the 911 tapes, which the police had refused to air, caught Zimmerman telling the dispatcher “These assholes always get away.” Worse, an officer corrected one witness for claiming that Trayvon was the one who cried out for help, and another officer told Martin’s family that Zimmerman had no police record — again, based solely on his word. The shooter had a previous battery arrest in 2005 for assaulting an officer.

Finally, after three weeks of mounting outrage, the 911 phone calls were released, offering a Rashomon-like look at the shooting. By that time Old Media had taken notice, leading the news with what NBC belatedly and disingenuously described as a “social media” story.  What media outlets so far have not mentioned — certainly not Fox News, which ran exactly one story on the murder and is now using it to argue against gun control — is that, at one point in Zimmerman’s call, while he’s chasing down the boy he’s about to shoot with his legal Tek 9, he says “these fucking coons.” (It’s at 2:20 in the above clip.) And who broke that story? Twitter.