Is there a connection between George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin and a white Sanford police officer’s tazing of a black man? Does this tragedy add credence to allegations that Zimmerman’s motives for shooting Martin were racist? These are the kinds of questions I’ve been investigating since moving to Sanford to witness the trial from inside the courtroom. I’ve discovered unreported information in many areas; some of which may have led to a different verdict- -had prosecutors not missed it.
I’m in Sanford now writing a book on what the public doesn’t know and what the jury never heard. Over the next months, more that shouldn’t wait will emerge. I’ll report it here. This now includes an increasingly excessive use of death and injury-linked Taser guns by police here and across the nation.
I was at Sanford’s Allen Chapel AME Church when members of Sanford’s black community recently confronted the city’s new police chief about the Taser shooting they call, “another Trayvon attack.” With my iPhone, I recorded what I saw and heard. As the audience passed around copied photos of a bloody and critically injured Fuller, the angry crowd demanded action and told new police chief, Cecil Smith, this was his first test of their trust. They would give him a chance to handle things right. Here’s how the crowd- -and later victim, Samuel Fuller, and 5 witnesses with whom I spoke- -say it went down:
Samuel Fuller is heading home from a grocery store with food. Two white police officers racially profile and follow him more than a mile to his neighborhood. There, Officer Brian McIntosh jumps out of the Jeep’s passenger seat and runs toward Fuller to harass him. He accuses Fuller of gambling in a game of street dice with two other men. The witnesses say McIntosh was wrong. Yes, six hours earlier, men had been throwing dice, but Fuller hadn’t been one of them. Fuller tells officer McIntosh, “I wasn’t gambling.” McIntosh demands Fuller empty his pockets. Fuller upends his front and back pockets to show he’s carrying only his ID, some small change and his cell phone. Witness, Chriskeesha Pierce, is so close Fuller tosses her his phone and asks her to call for help. Suddenly, McIntosh grabs Fuller’s arm “like he was going to break it” and jerks it around to Fuller’s back. Fuller startles, breaks free and begins to run down the street. The faster, officer McIntosh, chases Fuller. During flight, McIntosh pulls out his X-26 Taser gun. Officer J. Pillen yells at McIntosh to “ease up.” But, officer McIntosh ignores him. Now, only inches away, McIntosh shoots into Fuller’s head. Fifty thousand excruciating volts of electricity zap Fuller’s body into a freeze. With the full weight, speed and force of McIntosh crashing down onto him, Fuller dead drops. He hits and slides down nearly 10 feet of rough pavement…on his face.
When Fuller’s head grinds to a mangled stop, “Everyone thought he was dead.” As the torque of the unleashed amps subside, McIntosh yells, “Move and I’ll shoot you again!” Instead of calling for help, the officers, “…anxiously mill around, trying to figure out a lie to cover what really just happened.” Officer Pillen orders Fuller to stand. Spitting and swallowing red, Fuller struggles to gain awareness. After he’s finally up, it’s a witness who calls 9-1-1 and it’s they who get Fuller a chair. Other police officers and neighbors arrive on the scene. Police keep a tight eye on Fuller. The irate witnesses ask to weigh in, “But, police don’t want to hear what we have to say.” Paramedics show up and load Fuller onto a stretcher. As they lift Fuller onto the ambulance, “they check his pockets again and don’t find dice or money.” Fuller is rushed off and then airlifted- – in critical condition- – to a hospital. Officers survey the scene. They give witnesses only blank lined paper and then take off. Infuriated neighbors deliver their own witness statements to the police department.
I obtained a copy of Officer McIntosh’s police report. In it, he forwards 5 serious charges against Fuller, including Battery On An Officer, Weapons Possession and Resisting Arrest Without Violence. Police chief Smith orders an internal investigation. I submit an Open Records request seeking more than 20 items including evidence collected, photos taken, McIntosh’s Taser training records as well as any inquiries or investigations into McIntosh for “Use Of Excessive Force” or complaints of racial discrimination. I’m told I’ll get answers when the internal probe concludes, “…which could be up to 180 days.”
The police report casts doubt on at least some of McIntosh’s claims and actions:
-The “Probable Cause” that made the officers stop, was seeing Fuller gamble. But, neither the “dice” nor the “…large sum of currency” (McIntosh says he saw Fuller “collect from the ground”) were recovered.
-The report says Fuller “pushed” McIntosh in the chest, sending McIntosh backward and making him “…almost lose my footing.” Witnesses say this didn’t happen. But, it explains the “Battery Against An Officer” charge. Wait a minute. McIntosh also charged Fuller with “Resisting Arrest WITHOUT Violence.” Which was it? I checked Florida’s Penal Codes. If Fuller had resisted WITH violence that would have been the same as Battery. But officer McIntosh specifically forwarded the additional “Without” Violence charge. Can’t have both.
-McIntosh’s states that the black males were “unknown” to the officers, which- -if true- -defeats any claim they followed or profiled Fuller. But witnesses and also outlying neighbors I interviewed all say McIntosh knows Fuller well. That, in fact, McIntosh is, “… so known for seeing someone in this neighborhood and whipping around to harass him, we (the neighborhood) nicknamed him, “U-Turn.”
-The police report mentions no witness statements having been taken. In the thousands of police reports I’ve perused over my investigating years, reporting officers always at least note any witness statements. Most elaborate. I later spoke with a private investigator on the scene who confirms witnesses had to handle their own statements including driving them to the police department.
-Did McIntosh turn in brass knuckles he notes a paramedic had- -later at the hospital- -found on Fuller? Witnesses say no. But, McIntosh named the paramedic involved and it’s hard to believe any officer would claim to have turned in evidence that can’t be produced. However, McIntosh does make statements that cannot be true.
Example: In his report, he notes both his time of “dispatch to” and “arrival on” the scene- -that Sunday- -was “4:11 PM.” But, I checked with Fire Department/Paramedic spokesman, Matt Minnetto, who asserts rescue arrived on the scene at 4:16 PM, sharp. There’s no way the officers would have been able to: Stop and confront Fuller and the men, chase and Taser Fuller, get Fuller a chair, bandage him, control a growing crowd, protect the scene and gather evidence, interact with witnesses, summons help including the more than 10 law enforcement personnel who then showed up- -all in 5 minutes before the ambulance arrived. Just the shooting of the Taser lasts 5 seconds. And that’s if McIntosh pulled the trigger only once.
There are many more inconsistencies and contradictions, but I’ll stop with more on an important one I noted in the above news story. SPD’s own policies governing the use of Tasers strictly prohibit tazing a subject in the head or doing so if there is even “potential” for the subject to get seriously injured in a fall. I also looked into the training academy that certifies Sanford police officers in the use of Taser guns. Program Manager, Terrell Hendricks, noted that police have to follow state law 776.012 on Use Of Force. It requires- -in order for an officer to use a Taser gun- -the officer must, “…reasonably believe the offender is threatening death or great bodily harm.” Fuller wasn’t. When I pointed out that SPD’s own Taser policy says officers can taze someone just for attempting to run, Hendricks responded, “No Florida police department’s Taser policies can be more lenient than the law.”
This brings us to police officers’ unregulated and increasingly reckless use of Taser guns which I subsequently documented here and across the country. It’s an important topic I’ll address as more and more non-violent people suffer brain damage, heart attacks and other problems right after being tazed. But, it’s for another day.
I close by circling back to George Zimmerman. Sanford’s black community believes Fuller’s tazing is more proof of a racist police department to which the ‘Wannabe Police Officer, Zimmerman’ has close ties. And that this “culture of racism” influenced Zimmerman’s decision to shoot Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, of course, denies this and a jury seemed to agree. But, I’ve spoken with several credible people who provide interesting insight and who offer proof that Zimmerman and his family are racist. I’ve also discovered a lot more about the Zimmerman/Trayvon tragedy. But I can’t share it yet. I will when the time is right. So, stay tuned.