Trayvon Martin, question 3: When Trayvon Martin was cleared to enter the gated community, did anyone notify Neighborhood Watch?
Like many gated communities, The Retreat at Twin Lakes, where Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman lived and shot Trayvon Martin, has a homeowners association. As with any electronically controlled gate access, there is a protocol for being buzzed in.
According to Ryan Julison, assistant to Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump, Twin Lakes is actually not entirely gated. There is also no guard at the gate, there are no high fences. The community is just modest condos, Julison says, not protected with the electronic equivalent of a castle moat. So the Gate Access Form provided by The Retreat at Twin Lakes Homeowners Association could be considered somewhat misleading. (See instructions below.)
Still, getting inside the community through the gate requires punching in, either providing the code or dialing the phone number of the person you’re visiting, and being buzzed in. A useful route map and backtracking guide are provided here. Sanford Police Officer Timothy Smith, who also provided the exculpatory comment that George Zimmerman had grass stains on his back and a nose bleed, reported that Trayvon Martin’s body was found “laying in the grass between the residences of 1231 Twin Trees Ln. and 2821 Retreat View Cir.” Other writers have suggested that Trayvon Martin came back from the convenience store through another spot in the complex grounds.
Either way, my question is simple: After Trayvon Martin received access, did anyone get in touch with ‘Neighborhood Watch’ to let patrollers know that he had been cleared for entry?
The short answer is no. No one ‘cleared’ anything with George Zimmerman, because no one had a duty to do so. George Zimmerman—unlike his father, Robert Zimmerman–was not an official. He had no authority to act. This is a tragically inept set-up: Zimmerman had a concealed-weapon permit, he carried a gun on his hip sometimes, he was a Neighborhood Watch volunteer who watched the community. But he was not bound by any protocols—except the law, theoretically—and no one had any obligation to report anything to him.
Thus no one would have thought to notify Zimmerman, or the Neighborhood Watch, at any time, when a visitor was cleared for entry or buzzed in at The Retreat.
There was no ‘safe list’, so no one was safe from vigilantism
At times when George Zimmerman was the only watch volunteer, or the main watch volunteer—unofficially the ‘captain’ of Neighborhood Watch there—did anyone get in touch with him, to let him know that such-and-such person was okay? No.
Did the Homeowners Association, or Leland Management—which provided the gate access protocol—or anyone else, get in touch with George Zimmerman/whoever was patrolling, to let him know when a visitor had been cleared? No.
Unlike with real police, and real security guards, on real duty, there was nothing in the set-up, no protocol in place, to safeguard exit as well as entry. There was nothing to inform George Zimmerman of the difference between suspicious characters, on one hand, and neighbors and their guests on the other.
Zimmerman’s father and brother have said in interviews that George Zimmerman was returning from somewhere—i.e. presumably not patrolling—at the time he called 911 upon seeing Trayvon Martin. However, it may be noted that Robert J. Zimmerman, a retired magistrate judge from Virginia, also said in an open letter to the Orlando Sentinel that his son did not get out of his vehicle.
In subsequent interviews Zimmerman, like his son Robert Zimmerman, Jr., has contradicted his Sentinel statement, stating repeatedly that George Zimmerman was outside fighting on the ground with Trayvon Martin, even having his head beaten on the sidewalk.
Zimmerman’s lawyer, Craig Sonner, is currently not available for comment.
Presumably the authorities are supposed to infer that Zimmerman did not recognize Trayvon Martin as someone staying at the community. Zimmerman’s 911 call to police suggests that he did not know or recognize Martin. The Sanford Police Department letter to the community residents the day after the Feb. 26 shooting identifies Trayvon Martin, not by name, as “another resident of the community.” George Zimmerman is said by other residents to have patrolled regularly. But there is nothing to indicate that visitors at the gated community were safeguarded from vigilantism—except by staying indoors, as one of the residents said in the news report linked here. “There was not any sort of organized system,” Julison says.
On some other questions—as to whether George Zimmerman has a passport, has dual citizenship, or is currently in the United States—Julison is not able to provide answers.
Excerpted from Gate Access Form:
“RETREAT AT TWIN LAKES HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC.
. . .
GATE ACCESS FORM
“Visitors should use the directory at the gate to call your telephone for access. Press “9” on your telephone keypad to open the gate for your visitor. The system will not accept long distance telephone numbers; they must be local (407) or (321) numbers. We do not recommend the use of cellular phone numbers as not all are compatible with the gate access system.
“The gate system for your community uses a remote transponder. To register and activate your device, please provide the5 digit # for each. The 5 digit # for the remote can be found on the back of the unit, farthest to the right under the wordPIN.
5 Digit Pin #
. . .
____ ____ ____ ____ ____ If you would like to purchase an additional remote transponder they are available in our office for a cost of $50.00 each. Please send or deliver a check/money order payable to: Retreat at Twin Lakes at the address above. A pre-activated remote will be mailed to the property address listed above. We ask that you allow 3 to 4 business days for the mail delivery.
Need Keypad Code?
Your community also allows personal access codes to be used to gain access from the key pad. If you would like to request a Personal Entry Code, supply the 4 digits of your choice. We ask that you please not select obvious codes such as 1234 and four identical digits. If you choose to share your code with your guests or vendors, you will be held responsible for any individual using your code.
____ ____ ____ ____ (4 numeric digits)”
The fullest compilation of timeline with background information on the shooting of Trayvon Martin is that provided by wikipedia.
Public records in the case are posted at CNN.com.