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Mall Ninjary in Florida Shooting

The more I read about the shooting of Treyvon Martin by George Zimmerman, the more he sounds like a mall ninja to me. Here are some more facts:

Zimmerman described Martin as suspicious because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and walking slowly in the rain, police later told residents at a town hall.

A dispatcher told him to wait for a police cruiser, and not leave his vehicle.

But about a minute later, Zimmerman left his car wearing a red sweatshirt and pursued Martin on foot between two rows of townhouses, about 70 yards from where the teen was going.

Walking with a hood up slowly in the rain is “suspicious?” Sounds to me like the only thing this kid was doing that looked suspicious was walking while black. But we have another interesting detail, which I emphasized. Filling in the blanks a bit, I’m betting Martin probably cut through a neighboring property to get home faster because of the rain. That’s what set Zimmerman off to begin the confrontation, rather than just waiting for the police to arrive.

The only thing that gives me pause here is that the 911 dispatcher apparently sent someone out, which I wouldn’t think they’d do it the response to “What’s he doing that looks suspicious,” was “Walking slowly, in the rain, with a hoodie.” But it could also be the locals were aware of Mr. Zimmerman’s mall ninjary, and decided sending someone out to defuse the situation was the best course of action. Would a guy who states “These assholes always get away,” to a dispatcher be the type to start off his inquiry with, “Pardon me, kind sir, horrible evening out, but I’m wondering if I could assist you to find your way?” I tend to doubt it. Assuming the facts I’m speculating on are correct, what would your response be to a large man, not in uniform, aggressively approaching you “on foot, between two rows of townhouses?”

Zimmerman may very well claim self-defense successfully. Despite the machinations some, if Zimmerman was on the ground, with Martin on top of him and pummeling him, as one witness describes, duty to retreat would not enter into this case. That would make the fact that Florida is a castle doctrine state irrelevant. If the state can’t disprove Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense, then he’s not legally guilty of murder. That’s how “beyond a reasonable doubt” works. But regardless of what the law says, I’m in agreement with Clayton Cramer that Treyvon Martin didn’t need to die. George Zimmerman’s mall ninjary got someone killed. Avoidance is the number one rule of self-defense with a gun, and I have no patience for cop-wannabees inserting themselves into policing situations, without the right equipment or the right attitude, that results in dead teenagers.

31 Responses to “Mall Ninjary in Florida Shooting”

  1. Sage Thrasher says:

    You make good points. There are any number of reasons Martin might not have thought Zimmerman’s actions were benign and responded by fleeing or attacking (counter-attacking?) him. As far as Martin beating on Zimmerman after the latter was down, one big question is when Zimmerman drew his gun–before or after the fight started? Unfortunately in a he-said/he’s-dead situation, we may never know with certainty, though as you point out, Zimmerman’s actions prior to the shooting don’t figure in his favor.

  2. Jake says:

    If Martin attacked Zimmerman because he felt threatened, then the fact that Zimmerman was down is irrelevant – especially if Martin realized during the fight that Zimmerman had a gun. And as events proved, just because he was down didn’t mean he wasn’t still a threat.

    If that’s the case, and I were in Martin’s position, then I would have kept beating Zimmerman until he was physically unable to get at that gun – which probably means beating him into unconsciousness. Fight until the threat is ended.

    The key really seems to be centering around what prompted the physical altercation. Given that Martin is dead and we have only Zimmerman’s version to go by, we may never know the truth for certain.

    Given those constraints, we must remember: “Innocent until proven guilty.”

    Whether Zimmerman’s pursuit of Martin was enough to void any self-defense claim is a question of FL law, and may be a question best answered by a jury after hearing all the facts.

    • Oliver Perry says:

      “Whether Zimmerman’s pursuit of Martin was enough to void any self-defense claim is a question of FL law, and may be a question best answered by a jury after hearing all the facts.”

      This is what I really don’t understand-if you push someone to the point that they attack you, can you claim self defense and absolve yourself? Zimmerman follows Martin, who would (IMHO) rightly perceive Zimmerman as a threat. An altercation ensued, precipitated entirely by Zimmerman’s actions, and now Martin is dead. I don’t see how this is not Zimmerman’s fault, but of course, I’m not a lawyer blahblahblah. And yes, Zimmerman deserves his day in court and is innocent until proven guilty, however, it appears to me that there is plenty here to bring charges on.

      • Jake says:

        if you push someone to the point that they attack you, can you claim self defense and absolve yourself?

        I can’t speak for FL law (and IANAL anyway), but generally, the requirement in that situation is that you have to make a clear attempt to withdraw from the fight, and a clear indication that you give up the fight, before you can again claim self-defense if your attacker continues.

        If you can’t attempt to withdraw because you’re pinned to the ground, I suspect that you’re screwed. Even if you say you give up, what reason does he have to believe that your surrender is legitimate?

      • Sebastian says:

        That’s usually a matter of state law. But in Pennsylvania, in order to claim self-defense, you have to be faultless. That basically means you can’t have provoked the attack that lead to the shooting. In other words, if Zimmerman threw the first punch, his claim of self-defense, if it were done here, would be quite a long shot. I don’t know about Florida law.

        But nonetheless, you have the word of Zimmerman against the word of a dead man. If no witnesses saw how it started, the self-defense claim will likely stand.

        • Alpheus says:

          This situation is so ambiguous, it’s driving me a bit crazy! I’m inclined to think, though, that once you knock someone to the ground, that would be a good time to run away and try to call the cops. If you sit on the guy and pummel him (even if he started it), and that person shoots you…even if the person doing the shooting committed murder, you’re still dead!

          This entire situation saddens me, and I’m inclined to agree that Zimmerman possibly could have avoided it, and Martin would probably be still alive, if he just kept an eye on Martin.

          Of course, all this assumes Zimmerman didn’t have a very good reason to leave the car (but my mind gets hurt trying to think of what that reason may be…).

          • Jake says:

            I’m inclined to think, though, that once you knock someone to the ground, that would be a good time to run away and try to call the cops. If you sit on the guy and pummel him (even if he started it), and that person shoots you…even if the person doing the shooting committed murder, you’re still dead!

            Of course, the other side of that coin is the possibility that you didn’t hit him hard enough and he shoots you in the back as you’re running away.

            This whole thing seems to be a fuster-cluck, but like you I really do wonder why he decided to leave his car.

  3. Kenn says:

    Yeah, he’s looking more and more like a mall ninja to me too. That said, it looks too me like he’s got a solid self-defense case. But even if the state cannot disprove the self-defense claim, he needs to be nailed to the wall with a civil suit for wrongful death because it seems pretty clear that Zimmerman prompted the altercation.

  4. ecurb says:

    A murder charge is obviously out of the question, but how can any principle of self-defense cover deliberately starting a fight? Can I stand in a biker bar insulting a man’s mother and refusing requests to leave, but shoot him in self-defense when he finally snaps and attacks me?

    Kenn’s certainly right. No matter how the criminal suit turns out, this guy needs to be nailed in a civil suit.
    Unfortunately:

    A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity, and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force… and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force…”

    Martin’s actions don’t my definition of attack, at least. With any luck Zimmerman is going to have to take responsibility for this.

    • Sebastian says:

      Generally speaking, the law doesn’t. At least in Pennsylvania, you have to be faultless to claim self-defense. But what constitutes faultless isn’t so cut and dry. For instance, words aren’t enough to make someone at fault for starting an altercation that leads to a shooting.

    • Alpheus says:

      If the prosecutor decides not to press charges, but doesn’t find Zimmerman immune from criminal prosecution, is it possible that civil action could still be sought? I’m inclined to think “yes”.

      It would be one thing if the prosecutor announced “This is a clear case of self-defence” or a jury found him not guilty of murder…but if the prosecutor says “until we obtain further evidence, we’re not going to press charges”, I’d think that Zimmerman wouldn’t be immune from criminal prosecution…

  5. denton says:

    Diffuse=make blurry
    Defuse=remove fuse to prevent explosion

    • Sebastian says:

      Thanks, I have corrected. One of those situations that happens often where my brain says something my fingers just type without thinking it through as to the correct word.

  6. Too me it looks like a manslaughter charge.

    And my reasoning for that is avoidance. This was a case where Zimmerman sought out and pursued Martin.

    That over-steps self-defense. Heck, we’ve got another guy in New Hampshire who was arrested because he fired a warning shot to keep a man detained & subdued until police arrived. But that man was actively engaged in a crime against the home owner. And an unprovoked threat.

  7. It’s probably a case where both people thought the other one looked suspicious. To Zimmerman, the kid isn’t from the area and ducks down an alley in just the way you’d expect from someone looking to break into a house by the back door. To Martin, the watch captain is just this guy following him in a car and won’t leave him alone even after he ducks down an alley to get away from him.

    Whatever happens Zimmerman should expect a huge wrongful death lawsuit.

  8. Dann in Ohio says:

    I’m not an attorney… but as an Ohio CCW instructor… I can tell you that under Ohio law… if the incident happened here as it appears to have happened at this point…

    Zimmerman lost his self-defense claim the second he followed or pursued Martin… and Ohio is a castle doctrine state… but you can’t be the instigator or a contributor to the conflict or confrontation in Ohio and claim self-defense…

    …and Zimmerman left his car – after notifying police – to follow/pursue/confront… whatever happened with the young man… who was only looking suspicious… not presenting an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm…

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out with Florida law… he may win in criminal court… but he’ll likely lose everything eventually in civil court…

    Attorney for the Family in the Civil Suit, “So the dispatcher told you police were on the way, and you left your vehicle and pursed the subject – why?”

    Sebastian and I are on the same page on this matter…

    Dann in Ohio

    • Pat says:

      Alright, lemme ask this — if Zimmerman was checking up on something he legitimately thought was a crime, ie. lurking or loitering — walked up on someone without firearm in his hand, and began to be physically assaulted. With no option for retreat, does the threshold change then?

      Its not a good case for self-defense either way – and I’m by no means arguing that Zimmerman’s moves were a “good idea”.

      • Jake says:

        Considering that he reportedly was significantly larger than Martin, and that (inferring from his statement to the dispatcher) he likely presented himself in a hostile and threatening manner, I would say probably not.

        Also, don’t forget that Zimmerman supposedly chased him down before Martin turned on him. That makes a huge difference.

        • Pat says:

          Chased him down, or “confronted” him without the firearm in his hand? Sebastian has a new post up pretty much sums up my question above. Walking while black is not a crime, nor should it have subjected Martin to any additional scrutiny.

          Physically assaulting someone trying to determine if theres a crime in progress? Despite bad judgement on the part of Zimmerman, I don’t think you can physically assault someone just for following you. That may have been the threshold for deadly force – people have been killed by a single punch, regardless of how much they out/under weighed their opponent.

          Again, not a good situation from any point of view, nor would Zimmerman be someone I would want to hold up as a model permit holder.

          • Jake says:

            That is the question, isn’t it? The media reports I’ve seen said “chased”, but that’s the media – there isn’t a grain of salt big enough to take with those reports, but that’s all we have right now. Unless a reliable witness saw it, then as Sebastian said in the new post, we’ll probably never know for sure.

            Even without the chase, the manner in which he “confronted” him could make a difference. And again, we’ll probably never know what really happened.

            Bottom line: The whole thing sucks, and I very strongly suspect that Zimmerman did something that would ordinarily short-circuit a self defense claim, but there’s no evidence and no witnesses to critical events, so he will probably remain free (and should).

      • Dann in Ohio says:

        Ahh, but Zimmerman had already called police about a suspicious person… he had no reason (at least in the eyes of a jury, I’d suspect)… to leave his vehicle and approach the subject… police were on they’re way…

        … and per what Jake says too…

        Dann in Ohio

  9. Patrick says:

    Florida law has no requirement to retreat, but also does not prevent you from pursuing. It doesn’t say that specifically, but the wording was intentional: “any place you have a right to be.”

    The legal question is going to be whether Zimmerman had a right to be where he shot Martin. Under the law, if Zimmerman precipitated the fight then he is toast, but unfortunately he is the only one left to testify to those initial details.

    There will be no civil suit if there is no successful prosecution. And even getting the prosecution is tough under FL law. The presumption is generally on the side of the person who claims self-defense.

    I am a staunch supported of self-defense immunity laws, but some of the ways the FL law is implemented make me nervous. A few bad apples could upset the whole cart nationwide, and the FL statutes are ripe for abuse. I also speak this as a person who owns and maintains a home in Florida.

    • Zermoid says:

      I would think that if neither man lived in either house they were between that they were both trespassing and not “any place you have a right to be.”. So that would make me think Zimmerman would legally be the aggressor here by trespassing to approach Martin. Right?

  10. John Boch says:

    I don’t really have a dog in this fight, but it seems a legitimate self-defense shooting in what I’ve read.

    A man, of any color, walking slowly and/or indeterminately, especially in a place where he has no real legitimate purpose, is *highly* suspicious. As my mom would say, “he looks like he’s up to no good”.

    While I’m not sure it was the best decision to challenge the kid, it wasn’t anywhere near grossly out of line. Heck, I challenge people ambling and loitering between my office and the pawn shop next door on a semi-regular basis. And if they want to use me as a punching bag because I have the temerity to challenge their trespass and ask them not to do so, well then it’s not going to end well for them either.

    • Sebastian says:

      I have deleted a previous comment. I misread the comment.

    • Zermoid says:

      But you at least have a legal standing to be there, protection of your office and a neighbor’s property, from what I read neither of the people had a legal reason to be where they were.

    • Jeff says:

      What you fail to understand is that the act of an unknown potential threat following the kid down the street is enough to illicit a change in behavior ie; is this guy really following me let me slow down and see if he passes, ok let me speed up and se if he does too oh sh-t he is following me and I am scared so I run and oh sh-t now he is chasing me. A 17 year old kid thinks this way. Zimmerman caused the kid to act suspiciously because he was not in a uniform identifying him as security. Tragically It would not have ended any better for the kid even if the cops had arrived. The kid would have probably been so relieved to see a police car and unfortunately he would probably have tried to run to it and the police would have shot him anyway.

  11. In almost state to invoke self defense, castle doctrine or not, the defender has to be blameless in bringing on the trouble. I’d think that ignoring 911, exiting the vehicle, and entering a physical confrontation with the deceased would probably qualify for an attempt to question whether or not Zimmerman was blameless…

  12. Chris says:

    Watch means watch.

    Zim engaged…he’s at fault.

  13. Jake says:

    New information here. Martin was on the phone with someone at the time, and her statements back my (and other’s) speculation that he knew he was being followed and was trying to get away. She says he had thought he lost Zimmerman, but he showed up again, and it sounds to me like he may have cornered Martin. There was a short verbal confrontation (“Trayvon said, ‘What, are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What are you doing here.'”) followed by sounds of a physical altercation.

    Still nothing definitive on who physically assaulted who first, but (as always, assuming her statements are true) at that point I would be very likely to consider any assault by Martin to be self-defense.

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