Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post writes of Five myths about the killing of Trayvon Martin (h/t Instapundit).

The first myth listed concerns alleged police instructions for Zimmerman not to leave his vehicle.  This is a fundamental myth in the case, and gives rise to a claim one hears constantly and to this day:  If only Zimmerman had not left his vehicle when police told him not to, this never would have happened.

That narrative is spun, incorrectly, into legal theories that Zimmerman must have been the aggressor because he left the car against police orders and followed Martin.

Here’s how Capehart frames the myth, and how he debunks the myth:

1. On the night of the shooting, the police ordered Zimmerman to stay in his vehicle.

“Are you following him?” the operator for the Sanford police’s non-emergency line asks Zimmerman. “Yeah,” he says. The dispatcher on the phone tells him: “We don’t need you to do that.”

Who the aggressor was that fateful night is the central — and most unanswerable — question of the case. Those who fault Zimmerman have latched on to this back-and-forth with Sean Noffke, the operator, as proof that Zimmerman defied a direct police order.

Not so. Noffke testified on the first day of the jury trial that it is dispatchers’ policy not to give orders to callers. “We’re directly liable if we give a direct order,” he explained. “We always try to give general basic . . . not commands, just suggestions.” So, “We don’t need you to do that” is different than a more direct “Don’t do that.”

Under cross-examination, Noffke added more context to his “suggestion” when asked whether his requests for updates on what Martin was doing encouraged Zimmerman to follow the unarmed 17-year-old. “It’s best to avoid any kind of confrontation, to just get away from the situation,” Noffke said.

Capehart correctly debunks the myth that the police ordered Zimmerman not to follow Martin.

But in so doing, Capehart does not address the most important part of the myth — that Zimmerman was in his car at the time.  In so doing, Capehart assumes a fact which we know not to be true.

Zimmerman was not in the car at the time of the comment “we don’t need you to do that.”

Here’s the transcript of the call from Andrew Branca’s post at his blog addressing the call:

Zimmerman:  Shit, he’s running.

Dispatcher:  He’s running?  Which way is he running?

[Sound of car door opening.]

Zimmerman:  [Grunts.]  Down towards the other entrance of the neighborhood.

[Sound of car door closing.]

Dispatcher:  OK, and which entrance is that he’s heading towards.

Zimmerman:  The back entrance. . . .  [mutters] Fucking punks [puddles?].

[Wind/breathing noise.]

Dispatcher:  Are you following him?

Zimmerman:  Yeah.

Dispatcher:  OK, we don’t need you to do that.

Zimmerman:  OK.

On direct examination, the 911 operator acknowledged hearing the car door chime go off right after the “he’s running” statement by Zimmerman (at 3:15):

Here’s the cross-examination of the 911 operator, including his acknowledgement of hearing the door chiming (at 12:30) and that at the time of instruction there was wind noise from having cell phone outside the car (15:30).  The denial that there was an order not to follow appears at 14:00:

(More video and analysis of the 911 operator’s testimony at trial is here.)

This is important because it defeats a key narrative of the case, that Zimmerman was in his car at the time the police made the suggestion (not the direction) that “we don’t need you to do that.”

Capehart made a good faith attempt to debunk this myth, but in so doing, assumed the worst part of the myth.


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