DOCUMENT: Investigation, Crime

Lead Cop Told FBI Zimmerman Was Not A Racist

Federal civil rights probe faces significant hurdle

George Zimmerman bleeding

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Serino FBI Report

JULY 14--As the Department of Justice resumes its review of the Trayvon Martin killing to determine whether criminal civil rights charges should be filed against George Zimmerman, the federal probe could be hampered by the observations of the state’s lead investigator that the fatal shooting was not based on Martin’s skin color, nor was Zimmerman considered to be a racist.

In an interview last year with two FBI agents, Chris Serino, the Sanford Police Department detective who headed the shooting probe, said that he believed that “Zimmerman’s actions were not based on Martin’s skin color.” Rather, Serino told the agents, the deadly confrontation was triggered by the 17-year-old Martin’s “attire, the total circumstances of the encounter and the previous burglary suspects in the community.”

Serino (seen above testifying at the Zimmerman trial) was interviewed at the outset of the federal review of the February 2012 shooting. That investigation was shelved to allow Florida state prosecutors to pursue a second-degree murder case against Zimmerman, who was acquitted Saturday evening by a Florida jury.

In the wake of that “not guilty” verdict, the Justice Department today announced that federal investigators were resuming their review, and that "experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation."

As detailed in an FBI interview report, Serino described Zimmerman to agents as “overzealous and as having a ‘little hero complex,’ but not as a racist.” Serino noted that he had interviewed Zimmerman on numerous occasions and “feels like he knows him fairly well,” reported FBI agents Elizabeth Alexander and Matthew Oliver.

Referring to the “faulty conclusion” Zimmerman drew about the unarmed Martin, Serino said that local street gang members--known in the community as “Goons”--“typically dressed in black and wore hoodies.” Serino added that he believed “when Zimmerman saw Martin in a hoody, Zimmerman took it upon himself to view Martin as acting suspicious.”

Serino also told the FBI that he did not think Zimmerman wanted to be a police officer “because cops have a bad reputation and are bullies, but he wants to be a judge.” He also described Zimmerman as a “soft guy.” (2 pages)