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What Really Happened

The Trayvon Martin Case

The Missing Word

Speculating a bit more, it’s possible the store clerk may have come from similar circumstances. Young people from townie neighborhoods may or may not take jobs as store clerks, so this clerk may have come from some other part of town. He may have grown accustomed to seeing kids like Trayvon. Most urban blacks I know can tell the difference between a kid like Trayvon who, dress-up all he wants, is betrayed by the innocence in his eyes—and real gangstas who mean us harm. I seriously doubt Trayvon Martin was a threat to anybody. He was a kid, like a million others, white or black, who emulate the crap they see on TV. Real gangstas are, likewise, often less of a threat than they are perceived to be. In my experience, if you don’t bother them, most of the time, they won’t bother you. Just don’t stare and maybe consider crossing the street.

The gangstas who are an actual threat are usually not gangstas at all. They are either wannabes or poseurs, imitators of the gang lifestyle while not actually being in a gang. They get themselves inked up with tats, stay stoned and aggressively harass civilians—non-gang members—for no reason. These are the kinds of morons who get shot. A lot. Because they’re being jerks for no reason. These are the gun-happy, twitchy types who are dangerous because they have no code, no perceptible set of standards of conduct we can hold them to. These were guys I’d try to avoid but if there was no evasion from, I’d have acted with extreme aggression toward because aggression would be the only thing they’d respond to.

The problem is this: the average cop-wannabe, like this Zimmerman, is untrained. He is living a fantasy inside his head. Wyatt Earp. A Hispanic, Zimmerman is, at least from a distant observation, in denial about his own ethnicity. He is a completely invented person, living a fantasy that denies who he is: a not-dangerous, not-tough average guy. His account, therefore, cannot be trusted, first and foremost, because he is in denial of who he is. It is possible Zimmerman felt comfortable approaching Martin not only because of his gun but because he was sure he could beat Martin in a fight. He was wrong. The emerging picture is Trayvon was well trained or at least well versed in the fine art of butt-kicking. He was being stalked by a stranger in the dark, and he wasn’t giving it up to this guy.

The word missing from most discussion of the Martin case is “vigilante,” which is what George Zimmerman was. Neighborhood watch volunteers have one job: be nosy, report what you see. They are not cops, no even volunteer (or auxiliary) police who ride around in second-hand cop cars looking like idiots in police uniforms. Nobody pays those guys any mind, and if they’d gotten out of their fake cop car to trail a kid like Martin they’d be dumped from the Fake Cop program. In my personal experience, most real gang members I’ve known (or know now) don’t usually act alone. Even the twitchy wannabes—those who commit most of the violence we assume was committed by actual gang members—rarely act alone. Most of these types, walking alone, will not become aggressive unless you show aggression toward them first. I have absolutely no doubt, regardless of Martin’s status—good kid or gang banger—he’d not have harmed George Zimmerman or anybody else had he been left alone to finish walking back to his father’s girlfriend’s home. Most instances of aggressive “gangsta” behavior I have personally observed has occurred only when the boys are in groups, when they are showing off for one another or feel confident that their buddy has their back.

Gangsta? It's in the eyes.

I Am Trayvon Martin

Back when I used to work in Manhattan, it was a half-mile journey from my office to the Port Authority bus station. Coming in I’d usually catch a subway, but sometimes I’d walk it. Going home, I’d walk it as often as not because the trains were so crowded and midtown traffic was usually pretty awful. On more than one occasion I’ve been followed. They’d move when I moved. They’d cross the street when I crossed the street. I’ve learned, from hard experience, that trying to avoid a stalker is the wrong way to go. You want to get to some public place or protected environment as soon as possible, but moving away from the person following you sends the message that you are afraid—which only encourages them. Therefore, on more than one occasion, particularly if I was tired and had had a long day, I would walk slower, drawing the twitch following me in closer. I’d then turn, abruptly and move right at him with a menacing look. Nine out of ten times, the would-be mugger would be startled and just move on without incident. For the tenth one, I’d get in his face, snarling, dropping my bag or what have you, and promise him I’d beat him to death and leave him where I found him, “If you go for your pocket, I’ll kill you.” This has never, not once, failed to discourage someone from trying to rob me. It is not a tactic I recommend for anyone who can’t back up what they’re saying, and if the aggressor even _looks_like he’s reaching for a weapon, you’ve got to end him because, on the street, this is what it is: life or death.

Had I been followed by George Zimmerman, had I given him the Death Stare, warning him to leave me alone, and had self-appointed Deputy Dawg Zimmerman continued to close the gap, approaching me. I’d have assumed this person meant to do me harm. I’d have made several attempts to move away, I’d have tried to avoid confrontation. But at some point I’d have engaged the follower, motivated not by aggression or even hatred but by the educated, experienced conclusion that if I did not engage this person, he would likely harm me. I’d have assumed Zimmerman was a mugger. That “neighborhood watch” crap—assuming Zimmerman identified himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer—would have not seemed credible to me. I’d been attacked before, I’d had guns aimed at me before. I would not have known what Zimmerman’s act was nor would I have cared. I’d have ether tried to run to the house or, realizing I couldn’t avoid this guy, I’d have engaged him.

Which, by all emerging accounts, is likely what Trayvon Martin did: move away from Zimmerman, then turn back when he realized Zimmerman would not stop pursuing him.

What we’ll never know is if Zimmerman brandished a weapon at Trayvon or not. Not knowing who or what Zimmerman was, being alone, at night, behind a bunch of houses, had Zimmerman reached for a weapon I’d have jumped him. I’d have jumped him and tried my best to beat the living daylights out of the guy. Because I’d have known, once the assailant manages to pull his gun, I would likely lose my life. Having been bullied in younger years, by my late teens I’d become extremely aggressive on the street. Had I even *seen* a gun in Zimmerman’s waistband, this stranger approaching me, I’d have attacked him. I would have assumed he intended me harm, and I would not have waited from him to actually point his weapon at me or to actually do anything. Following me was a threatening act.

We can cloud the issue all we want with racial or political overtones. Despite his Hispanic heritage, George Zimmerman clearly and obviously identifies as white. He also has a troubling Starsky & Hutch cop-wannabe vigilante streak. And, split hairs all you want, the simple and unvarnished truth is that Trayvon Martin would be alive today had Zimmerman followed his training and explicit instructions from the police and simply stayed in his car. Beyond that, whether or not Trayvon attached him is kind of besides the point. Given those givens, I’d have attacked Zimmerman, too.

Stunned Martin's parents. Police failed to give Zimmerman a drug test, but they gave Trayvon one.

Who Speaks For Trayvon?

What is less clear to me is how Trayvon got shot. I mean, from leaked witness statements, the picture emerging is that Trayvon was clearly kicking Zimmerman’s butt. How did Zimmerman manage to pull a gun and shoot Martin? It seems entirely unlikely that, in the midst of a good old-fashioned butt-whupping, that Martin would have permitted Zimmerman to reach for anything. I certainly would not have. We’ll have no way of knowing, conclusively, how Zimmerman managed to finally, after having his ashes hauled, reach for his pistol, but the TV show scenario of the gun falling out and the two me struggling for it is just nonsense. A likelier scenario: having made his point to Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin may have given him a final punch and released him, perhaps intending to go on his way. My speculation is Trayvon let George go, the fight was over, and Zimmerman, finally free to reach, pulled his gun and shot him. For me, no other scenario seems logical or even likely.

I’ve had guns aimed at me in anger three times in my life, all during my teen years. On neither occasion did I scream for help. I’m not entirely sure why, although I’m sure, on some level, I was trying to be a man by not giving it up to this punk with the gun as much as the punk with the gun was trying to be a man by trying to rob or assault me. I never believed those screams of help came from Trayvon Martin. Screaming for help is not something teenage boys do. It’s not what they’ve seen in the movies or on the countless hours of “gangsta” video they indoctrinate themselves with 24/7. Trayvon would more likely emulate his heroes—the ignorant, saggy-pants moron “gangsta” rappers. I suspect Zimmerman, his Batman fantasy destroyed by a teenager emulating what a witness called “mixed martial arts,” shot this kid the minute Trayvon stopped pounding him. By any measure, Zimmerman’s act was one of cowardice. “Stand your ground.” Did Zimmerman fear for his life? Maybe. But the inarguable point was he brought the incident on himself. Is my scenario the correct one? We’ll never know. But I find it difficult to believe Martin was a killer. If he acted aggressively, if he said aggressive things, its because that’s what urban teens do, mostly out of fear. I believe Martin had every reason to fear this stranger following him in the dark. I don’t believe the gun came into play during the struggle. If it had, if Zimmerman could have reached it during their encounter, I doubt he’d have taken the beating he claims to have taken.

I believe the fight was over. I believe Trayvon Martin let go of George Zimmerman, intending to move on. And the moment Zimmerman was no longer getting his head pounded, he pulled a gun and shot him. That’s what I think happened. Sadly, the only person who know for sure is Zimmerman himself, who is unlikely to ever provide an honest account of that night, and Trayvon Martin, who can’t provide one.

Christopher J. Priest
20 May 2012