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Family of slain black Fla. teen hear 911 calls

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[March 17, 2012]  SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- The first call before a black teenager was fatally shot in Florida's Retreat at Twin Lakes Townhomes came from 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a white neighborhood watch captain who wanted to report a suspicious man walking through the gated community.

"This guy looks like he is up to no good. He is on drugs or something," Zimmerman told the dispatcher from his SUV. He added that the black teen had his hand in his waistband and was walking around looking at homes.

"These a-------. They always get away," Zimmerman said on a 911 call.

Sanford police officials on Friday released eight 911 calls that they used in their investigation into Zimmerman's shooting death of the 17-year-old teen, Trayvon Martin.

Martin's family had demanded the release of the 911 calls to help better understand how Martin died while walking home from a convenience store last month. They hoped to find an answer as to why police hadn't yet arrested Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense.

After listening to recordings of 911 calls Friday night, Martin's family said they're more convinced than ever that the Zimmerman should be charged with a crime. The case has been turned over to the State Attorney's Office which can decide whether to file charges or present evidence to a grand jury.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the family, told reporters outside Sanford City Hall that Martin's parents both broke down and cried as they listened to the recordings.

"They are completely devastated, and they are in unbelievable grief," Crump said.

Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, previously sued to have the recordings released. A hearing for the case had been scheduled for Monday.

During Zimmerman's initial call, he told the dispatcher he was following Martin and the dispatcher told him, "You don't need to do that."

Moments later, dispatchers were bombarded by seven 911 calls from frantic neighbors describing a fight between two men, screaming and then a gunshot.

"There is somebody screaming outside," one female caller said, as an unknown male voice can be heard crying in the background. Then a shot is heard.

A male caller described a physical altercation between Martin and the shooter.

"I just heard a shot right behind my house," The caller said. "They're wrestling right behind my porch. The guy is yelling 'Help.' I'm not going outside."

Earlier Friday, Martin's parents called on the FBI to take over the investigation, saying they no longer trusted the Sanford police department.

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Sanford police Sgt. David Morgenstern said the department stands by its investigation but welcomes help from any outside agency. FBI agent David Couvertier said the agency has been in contact with Sanford police and is monitoring the case.

"We are committed to having somebody review this to see if we made a mistake," said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett. "If we made missteps and there is something there, we will act accordingly."

Several Sanford residents who spoke to The Associated Press Friday said they think there would have been an arrest already if the shooter had been black and the deceased had been white. They said blacks and whites in this city of 53,000 residents were pretty much in agreement that an injustice had been done with no one arrested, and that there was no racial divide in how the case is being perceived. The city is 57 percent white and 30 percent black. It has a median household income of almost $42,000.

"To me, I don't think it's even a race issue, other than for the people involved," Ladonna Williams, 38, who is black, said as she shopped at the Seminole Towne Center shopping mall, more than a mile the shooting took place. "It's just about ... to be able to take somebody's life in 2012 and not even go to jail for it, that is just sad. No matter, for any color. Not just black or white. Any color."

Zimmerman's father delivered a letter to the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday, saying the way his son is being depicted in the media is cruel and misleading. He also says his son has received death threats and moved out of his home. George Zimmerman is Hispanic and grew up in a multiracial family, the statement says.

"He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever ...," the letter says. "The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth."

[Associated Press; By MIKE SCHNEIDER]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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