After interviewing 30 people familiar with George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain charged with killing African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, FBI agents found no evidence that the shooting was driven by racial bias or animus.
Before Thursday’s release of a Department of Justice report, both sides have argued over whether smatterings of racially charged testimony should be released to the public before the trial—in particular, the testimony of “Witness 9,” whom state prosecutors say has described an “act” by Mr. Zimmerman that suggests “he had a bias toward black people.”
The report released Thursday made clear that the FBI found no one willing to go on the record as saying Zimmerman is racist. Even one of the most skeptical local investigators with the Sanford, Fla., police department, Chris Serino, suggested to the FBI that Zimmerman followed Trayvon “based on his attire,” not “skin color,” and added that he thought Zimmerman had a “little hero complex,” but is not racist, according to the Orlando Sentinel, which obtained copies of the document.
The report outlines how FBI agents asked each person interviewed whether Zimmerman “displayed any bias, prejudice or irrational attitude against any class of citizen, religious, racial, gender or ethnic groups.” No one said he had.
Despite the FBI’s findings, questions about Zimmerman’s mind-set and possible biases could continue to play a part in his upcoming trial. Three weeks ago, Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester ruled that the “Witness 9” statements should be released, but both the defense and the prosecution pleaded with him to reconsider. In a previously released statement, Witness 9 is quoted as saying, “I know George, and I know that he does not like black people.”
Other evidence released Thursday included:
Details of an old MySpace account featuring a 21-year-old Zimmerman’s writing voice (he’s now 28). At one point, he disparaged Mexicans and gloated over having two felony allegations for accosting a police officer reduced to one misdemeanor. “Workin 96 hours to get a decent pay check, getting knifes pulled on you by every Mexican you run into!” Zimmerman wrote in 2005.
Zimmerman is half-white and half-Hispanic. His family has testified that he was a mentor to two poor black kids in the Orlando, Fla., area, and rallied the community to help a homeless black man who had been sucker-punched by a police officer.