Trayvon Martin: Timeline of February 26
Much has been written by now about the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in the Twin Lakes district of Sanford, Florida. But it seems that there has yet to be anywhere that someone has created a timeline of that evening. Yet, a timeline is crucial to understand the relationship among the known events, where the knowledge gaps are, and how the differing accounts fit together — or don’t.
So here I present the most up to date timeline I can piece together, for the night of February 26.
Any mention I make of entries in the dispatch record come from the Sanford Police Department dispatch record of Zimmerman’s calls to the Sanford Police. Unless otherwise specified, any mention I make of the words spoken by Zimmerman come from the audio of his call to the Sanford Police that night. Information on events that transpired after 7:20 PM came from the police reports of Officers Timothy Smith and Ricardo Ayala. I’ve included images of the scenes, to help you visualize what happened. All of these images are clickable to zoom in for more detail.
7:00 PM The NBA All-Star Game broadcast begins from Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Twenty miles to the north, Trayvon Martin, wearing a gray hoodie, leaves the 7-Eleven at 1125 Rinehart Road (we can deduce this because it’s the closest 7-Eleven to the neighborhood), where he had bought a bottle of Arizona iced tea and a bag of Skittles, heading to Brandy Green’s townhouse in The Retreat at Twin Lakes, a gated community. Brandy Green is his father’s fiancée. (Contrary to earlier reports, Martin didn’t make the journey at the game’s halftime, because the game had just started when the events below occurred.) Since he’s on foot, and the weather is unsettled, I believe he’s cutting corners where he can, likely passing through an empty field near the intersection of Rinehart Road and Oregon Avenue.
7:07 PM (or perhaps a few minutes earlier) He cuts through the northwest corner of the community, where there’s an open trellis of sorts that is easy to pass through. We can conclude that he must have gone through there, as I’ll explain shortly. A cloudburst begins around then, and he takes shelter under the eaves of one of the units on the northwest corner of The Retreat, on the north span of Retreat View Circle.
7:09 PM George Zimmerman, wearing a red cardigan sweater over a gray shirt, leaves his townhome in The Retreat to buy groceries, and drives toward the north exit of the neighborhood. The rain lets up, and Martin leaves his temporary shelter to continue on his way. As Zimmerman heads north on Twin Trees Lane toward the intersection with the north span of Retreat View, he spots Martin coming out from under the eaves, then walking east on Retreat View, heading in the direction of the clubhouse. Given how long will pass before Martin reaches the clubhouse, and the typical pace of five feet per second for an adult male, Zimmerman had to have spotted Martin almost immediately after he came out from the shadows at the northwest corner of the neighborhood. That’s 300 feet from the front of the clubhouse, and a little over 500 feet from where Zimmerman was at the time.
The image below is an aerial shot of the neighborhood. Martin’s location is marked in yellow, and Zimmerman’s in red.
7:09:34 PM Zimmerman calls the Sanford Police Department’s non-emergency phone number. The recording begins. We have the exact time of the call, because the Sanford Police Department released a log of calls Zimmerman made to the police. This particular call appears on page 46.
Below is a closer shot of the neighborhood, with both Martin’s and Zimmerman’s positions indicated at known points up to the point that Zimmerman leaves his vehicle.
7:09:39 PM Zimmerman tells Sean (sp?), the dispatcher, that he sees someone “walking around, looking about” the neighborhood. Martin couldn’t be heading south on Twin Trees from the north gate of The Retreat, because Zimmerman wouldn’t have said that Martin was on “Retreat View Circle”, as he did about ten seconds into his call. Given that they end up to the east of the intersection, and Martin was coming originally from the west (where the 7-Eleven is), he must have entered The Retreat from west of the intersection. But the only two entrances are on the north and east. This indicates that he had to have entered through a nonentrance. The most direct route from the 7-Eleven to the place where he was first seen by Zimmerman would be cutting through the gap I mentioned above.
Martin notices Zimmerman stopped at the intersection, and probably realizes now that Zimmerman’s SUV has been stopped at the intersection for some time. He stops in front of the clubhouse and stares at the vehicle.
7:10:19 PM Zimmerman sees Martin stopped and staring, and says to Sean, “Now he’s just staring at me.” It seems likely here that Sean attempts to complete his first entry, but the computer indicates that there is no “111 Retreat View Circle”. He asks Zimmerman for clarification about the address.
Below is a photo of the scene at this point, as would be seen from someone at the front gate to the neighborhood. I’ve indicated in the photo where Martin and Zimmerman are at points on the timeline.
7:10:32 PM Martin continues on his way. Zimmerman says, “Now he’s coming towards me.” Martin, heading toward the 1100 block of Twin Trees, takes the most direct route, which will pass near Zimmerman in his SUV.
7:10:53 PM Martin gets close to the SUV: “He’s coming to check me out,” Zimmerman says. Assuming the typical adult male pace of five feet per second, that means the place he had stopped was about 120 feet away. This makes perfect sense for the scenario outlined here; the middle of the front of the clubhouse is about 120 feet away from the southeast corner of Twin Trees and Retreat View.
7:11:04 PM Zimmerman explicitly asks for an officer to be sent. Sean acknowledges that there is one on the way, though he has yet to complete his first entry in the dispatch system. Martin continues heading down Twin Trees, toward the backyards of the units on the 3000 block of Retreat View.
7:11:12 PM Sean completes the first call log entry.
7:11:17 PM Officer Ricardo Ayala acknowledges and takes the dispatch call.
7:11:19 PM On the call, you can hear Zimmerman rustling, suggesting that perhaps he’s twisting his body around to look out the back of the SUV. Given that he later describes the location of his truck to be past the bend in Twin Trees, he has to have backed up around the corner to see where Martin is going. “These assholes, they always get away,” he says. He tries to explain to Sean where the officer needs to go in order to find Martin.
7:11:32 PM According to phone records, Martin’s girlfriend calls him at 7:12 PM, and stays on the phone with him for four minutes. However, her accounting of the call, which states that he hasn’t yet run, suggests that it had started closer to this point. Martin started running a couple of seconds before 7:12 PM, by the dispatch clock. According to Martin’s girlfriend, he tells her that he had taken shelter from the rain on his way back, that he noticed Zimmerman, and thinks he’s acting suspiciously. She said that she told him to run, but that he said he’d just walk fast. Perhaps he did just walk fast, and Zimmerman reported it as running. Regardless, in order for this account to synchronize with the events in the log and Zimmerman’s call, she would have had to start talking to Martin no later than 7:11:32, by the dispatch system’s clock. This is assuming that the pre-run conversation would have taken no fewer than ten seconds. Because the record we have is a billing record, the phone call lasted no less than three minutes plus one second, and no more than four minutes exactly. Mobile phone billing systems treat partial minutes as complete minutes. This means that the phone call must have ended no later than 7:15:32.
7:11:42 PM Martin starts running. Since it’s about 50 seconds from “He’s coming to check me out,” we can surmise that he’s walked about 250 feet in that time. This would place him about halfway along the block of Twin Trees that heads east from the bend. He should have about a 200 foot head start, not counting the time it would take for Zimmerman to leave the vehicle. As we’ll see below, Martin ran toward the paved path between the backyards of the Twin Trees properties on the 1200 block and the backyards of the Retreat View properties at the 2800 block. Zimmerman tells Sean that Martin started running.
7:11:46 PM Zimmerman opens the door to go after Martin, and we hear the “key in ignition” chime as he does. He leaves his keys in the ignition. We know this because we can hear the chimes continue, but fade, over the next four seconds, followed by the sound of the door closing.
7:11:50 PM Zimmerman tells Sean that Martin is heading toward “the back entrance”, referring to the east entrance to The Retreat.
7:11:54 PM We start to hear wind in the cell phone microphone.
7:11:56 PM We hear Zimmerman half-whisper what sounds like “fuckin’ coons” (some have suggested that the second word might be “goons”; since a hard “g” sound is spoken as a voiced version of the hard “c” sound, a whispered “goons” would be indistinguishable from “coons”).
7:11:59 PM The dispatcher completes the entry noting that Martin is running.
7:12:00 PM Officer Ayala acknowledges that he is enroute. Sean tells Zimmerman, “… we don’t need you to [follow Martin].”
7:12:14 PM The wind noise stops. Was the noise from Zimmerman running, or was it windy? It’s hard to tell for sure. So there’s 20 seconds of either running or being in the open with wind blowing. According to Martin’s girlfriend’s statement, he tells her that he thinks he lost Zimmerman. It’s dark in those backyards, so Zimmerman can’t see where Martin is for the remainder of his call.
7:12:47 PM Zimmerman tries to describe where he will be able to meet the officers. He says that they can go past the clubhouse, past the mailboxes, and then around the bend, and that’s where his truck is.
7:13:12 PM Zimmerman says he’s OK with meeting the officers at the mailboxes. Sean tells units in route to meet Zimmerman at the mailboxes.
7:13:27 PM Officer Smith is closer to the neighborhood and becomes available; he acknowledges and responds to the call.
7:13:39 PM Zimmerman hangs up.
7:13:41 PM Sean adds an entry for the officers to call Zimmerman when they arrive.
7:13:41–7:15:25 PM For these nearly two critical minutes, there are no eyewitnesses. We do have Martin’s girlfriend’s account of what she heard, which she said was Martin telling her that Zimmerman was right behind him, then she hears him asking Zimmerman why he’s following, and Zimmerman responding by asking what Martin was doing around there. And then she heard what sounded like the headset falling to the ground, whereupon the line went dead. As I said before, the line went dead at 7:15:32 at the latest, though it could be as early as 7:14:15. Depending on what happened during this crucial time, Zimmerman may have a self-defense motive for the shooting.
(According to George Zimmerman, this is what happens during this period: Martin approaches him, and asks if he had a problem. When Zimmerman says he doesn’t, Martin says something to the effect of “Now you do,” and punches Zimmerman in the nose, knocking him down.) Then Martin starts beating on Zimmerman, slamming his head into the sidewalk, and Zimmerman starts screaming for help.)
(According to Robert Zimmerman, George’s father, this is what happens during this period: Zimmerman walks to the east span of Retreat View to get a house number for the police, so that they’d have a more specific area in which to look. He finds one, turns around, and is heading back to his truck when he is approached by Martin, who asks, “Do you have a fucking problem?” Zimmerman responds that he doesn’t, and reaches for his cellphone. Then Martin punches him in the nose, knocking him down. Martin proceeds to beat Zimmerman for over a minute, and tells him something along the lines of, “You’re going to die tonight.”)
7:15:25 PM (± a few seconds) People in the area hear someone screaming for help. A 13-year-old boy who was out walking his dog hears the screams and runs toward the scene. According to the police’s account of his statement, he sees a man with a red shirt lying on the ground, but doesn’t see anyone else. (His mother later reported that the police report misrepresented his statement, and that the investigator tried to prod him into stating that the person in trouble was wearing a red shirt.) The boy’s dog escapes before he could get a better look, and he then leaves the scene to chase after the dog. A man (identified only as “John”) (his condominium is indicated on the map above) sees the scuffle, and later claims to have seen a man with a red sweater on his back on the ground, yelling for help, with someone on top of him beating him. Another person also sees the scuffle, but can’t tell who is on top of whom. During the scuffle, Zimmerman receives injuries (reported by Officer Smith as a cut on the back of his head and a bleeding nose; later reports leave uncertain whether Zimmerman’s nose gets broken)*.
7:15:35 PM 911 Call A begins. In the background, you can hear someone yelling for help for 45 seconds. Two independent forensics experts found less than 50% likelihood that the screams came from the same person who was heard on the Zimmerman call; a 90% likelihood is typical for a match.
7:16:10 PM 911 Call B begins. The caller claims to have seen a white shirt on the man who was on top. Neither man was wearing white, according to official reports. Zimmerman was wearing red sweater over a gray shirt, and Martin was wearing a gray hoodie.
7:16:20 PM A shot is fired (45 seconds into 911 Call A). The screams stop immediately. The gun is fired at about the ten-second mark of 911 Call B, but you can’t hear it because that section is redacted for containing personal information.
According to Officer Smith’s report, the dispatchers inform him as he arrives on scene that shots have been fired behind 1231 Twin Trees (likely the address of one of these above callers).
7:17:11 PM Smith arrives streetside (it’s not clear whether he’s on Twin Trees or Retreat View) We know he arrived streetside approximately 50 seconds after the gunshot, from the audio of the 911 Call B; at the one minute mark, the caller reports that the officer just arrived, but is on the street side, and the shot came from the back yard.
7:17:30 PM (± a few seconds) Smith finds the location between Twin Trees and Retreat View, and yells out to identify himself and begin to secure the scene. We know this because the 911 callers tell the dispatchers that they can hear the shouting and can see his flashlight scanning the scene. Since the calls have another event that we can pinpoint (the gunshot), we can determine when Smith arrives at the scene of the shooting.
7:20 PM (± a minute or so) From this point until 7:37, the information here comes entirely from the police reports of Officers Smith and Ayala. Ayala arrives on scene. Smith has Zimmerman in custody by this time. Ayala sees Martin face down on the ground and tries to get a response to him. Sergeant Raimondo arrives at this point, and the two begin CPR.
7:21 (± a minute or so) - 7:30 PM Additional officers arrive on scene, as do paramedics. The paramedics attempt to revive Martin, but are unsuccessful. They pronounce him dead at 7:30.
7:31 — 7:37 PM Paramedics treat Zimmerman in the back of a police car for injuries sustained in the altercation. At this time, Smith overhears Zimmerman state that he kept yelling for help, and nobody would help him. The paramedics finish administering first aid, and clear Zimmerman for transport to the police station.
7:38 PM (approximately) The police car containing Zimmerman leaves the scene. This time is established by estimating the time it takes to drive from The Retreat to Sanford’s only police station.
7:52 PM The police car containing Zimmerman arrives at the station. Video taken from this time doesn’t indicate any blood or injuries, which may mean nothing more than that the paramedics did a good job cleaning him up. The video does, however, indicate that they arrived at 7:52.
I’m not drawing any conclusions here as to the veracity of people’s statements. But I’d imagine you can see some inconsistencies between statements and physical evidence.
*Note: an earlier version of the article stated definitively that Zimmerman’s head was bleeding, and his nose was broken. Those points are in question, and shouldn’t have been treated as factual.
- Defending Against Skittles (logarchism.com)
- 10 Things You Need To Know About The Trayvon Martin Case (buzzfeed.com)
- Thousands expected in Sanford on 1 month anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death (thegrio.com)
- Lead Cop Wanted Zimmerman Arrested (newser.com)
- Lawyer: Zimmerman PoliceVideo the ‘Smoking Gun’ (foxnews.com)