Trayvon Martin Tragedy – Could It Have Been Prevented?


Written by Rita Smith

As the country continues to discuss, explore, grieve and rant about the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, one important outcome should be that we fully review all the details of the events, both on that terrible evening and past incidents that may have lead to it.

What is clear is that a young man is dead, and another one is now faced with possible charges of manslaughter or murder. As investigations finally begin, any forensic evidence that is available and what the few witnesses can add will continue to flesh out the details of what transpired that night. Most tragically, one critical voice in this event is forever silenced, and for that reason we must use every tool at our disposable to examine the events.

Any information about George Zimmerman’s choice to use violence in the past is critical to our understanding of his act that night in February and of how we can reduce violence in our communities. The use of violence, particularly lethal violence, is seldom a random and isolated act. When the past of alleged perpetrators of this level of violence is exposed, other less deadly acts of violence usually begin to emerge. If we are to truly reduce violence in our communities, it is imperative that we respond to those early signs of violent acts, especially when those acts are directed at another person. The response must include significant consequences to hold the perpetrator accountable. If we do actually punish violence against persons with consequences that have meaning to the perpetrator, it may very well reduce the future use of violence by most of those criminals.

George Zimmerman has such a history of interpersonal violence. He also has a history of saying or implying he was the victim. None of the cases was exhaustively investigated, so we can’t know what actually happened at this point. In July of 2005 Zimmerman was arrested during a police effort to stop underage drinking at the University of Central Florida. He was charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence. Charges were reduced to resisting arrest without violence, and eventually dropped altogether. In that case he said the undercover officer assaulted him first. In August of 2005, his ex-fiancée filed for a temporary order of protection against him for violent acts she stated he perpetrated against her. He counter filed for an order of protection against her stating she assaulted him. The court granted both orders. The protection order against him was lifted in August 2006. Often a protection order is lifted if the party requesting it does not apply for a permanent order.

A former co-worker of Zimmerman’s recently stated to a reporter from the New York Daily News that Zimmerman was fired in 2005 from an off-the-books security job for “being too aggressive.” He stated that Zimmerman was just a cool guy but he could be like Jekyll and Hyde (this is very common language when a victim of domestic violence describes an abuser). The co-worker said Zimmerman overreacted to a woman being drunk at one of the parties he was working and threw her across the room. The former co-worker reports her ankle was twisted from the alleged assault by Zimmerman.

All of these choices by Zimmerman to use violence in previous situations when he wanted to be in control—if indeed those were his choices—offered us as a society the opportunity to make a statement to him and others that we don’t condone the use of violence to solve problems or stop someone else’s, in his judgment, unacceptable behavior. But we did not act. Charges were dropped, a counter protection order was issued, charges weren’t filed at all and he was fired, and—with the most recent case, when someone died—we are still waiting to see if he will be held accountable for the choice to use deadly force.

It is not uncommon for those who use violence, particularly in domestic violence cases, for neighbors, family, friends or co-workers to say the alleged perpetrator was a good guy, a loving father, that he helped others. All one has to do is read the most recent murder suicide to see another example of how the general public often misses signs of escalating violence. It is imperative that we begin to educate ourselves about those signs, even when they are exhibited in our own close circle of friends and family, and respond to that violence in a way that will reduce the likelihood of its reoccurrence and escalation. We must stop excusing the behavior, and we must use the tools we have in the criminal justice system to hold perpetrators accountable when they choose to use violence against another living being.

This post was originally published by the Women’s Media Center.


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Reclaiming the Cause: When Your Abuser Claims To Be A Feminist


Photo from calvinfleming via flickr


Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Pat W.
Pat W5 years ago

Zimmerman seems to have not been held responsible prio,r regarding his aggressive behavior.

Nimue Pendragon

Of course it could have been prevented. There was no cause for Zimmerman to even make the phone call, everything he did was wrong, the call, the hunting down and shooting of an innocent boy. Trayvon was doing nothing wrong, he was murdered and his killer walks free. This nutter needs to be locked up and prohibited from ever carrying a gun again.

Becky Y.
Rebecca Y5 years ago

I was visiting my mom; she invited me to spend my vacation with her and her new husband. He’s a lot richer than my dad and they live in a big house and have really nice things. I was kinda scared to be in his house because I’m not as refined as he is and he probably wouldn’t approve of me. I haven’t even graduated from high school yet and my grades aren’t very good. I got into a little trouble when my dad and mom got divorced but I’ve been doing good. I got over being mad about it. I can see now that mom and dad weren’t very good together. She is much happier now and I have to admit so is dad and my new step-dad isn’t so bad either; he’s really been treating me just fine.
There isn’t much to do here and my girlfriend is back home and I’ve been wishing I’d be able to go back home soon. Tonight I decided to go to the local store to get some candy for mom and me. Her husband is out of town for a day or two. While I was on my way to mom’s house, a guy in a car started to follow me. It scared me because every time I turned a corner, he turned the corner too. If I walked fast, he speeded up. If I walked really slow, he slowed way down. I called my girlfriend and we talked and she said I should hurry home so I started to run and that’s when he jumped out of his car right next to me and he had a gun in his hand and it scared me to death. He didn’t say a word but then he grabbed me by the arm and said, “

Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen5 years ago

Trayvon Martin could have armed himself and shot first.

As long as there are no witnesses to claim otherwise you can always claim that you felt threatened - its the USAmerican way.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle5 years ago

Of course this could have been prevented! Duh! First of all, there should not be Stand your Ground laws on the books. It is an open invitation to any who have bullying personalities and prejudices. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But one cannot murder someone else, and not have an investigation, either! The harm is done -- the young man is dead, not able to live a full life, and his parents and friends grieving. But justice must also be done.

Christine Stewart

Yes, it could have been prevented- Zimmerman shouldn't have been following the kid after the 911 operator told him to stop, and he shouldn't have been carrying a gun in the first place. I actually don't have a problem if you are in your own house and you shoot an intruder. I have a problem with following someone until they both freak out and someone ends up dead...

Mary H.
Mary Hale5 years ago

It isn't the stand your ground law that killed Trayon, it was Zimmerman. If he had stayed in his car and not followed Trayon like he was instructed to do then the boy would be alive. Zimmerman disobayed his instructions. He followed the boy causing the boy fear. He killed the boy and that is first degree murder. Zimmerman never should have been given a permit to even carry a gun. He had been arrested before even though charges were dropped. They were probably dropped because of a flea bargen

Arild Warud

If it could have been prevented I don't know but with stricter gun control and striking that stupid law from the books it should have been prevented.

KS Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.