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Neighbor comes to defense of Trayvon Martin's shooter

Fellow neighborhood watch volunteer Frank Taaffe comes to the defense of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin while patrolling his gated Florida community. WTVJ-TV's Jeff Burnside reports.

SANFORD, Fla. - A neighbor of George Zimmerman and fellow neighborhood watch captain in their Florida gated community came to his defense Tuesday, saying Zimmerman shot Miami teenager Trayvon Martin after numerous burglaries at The Retreat at Twin Lakes.

Frank Taaffe pointed out the circumstances that he believes led his 28-year-old neighbor to react the way he did on the night of Feb. 26: Eight burglaries within 15 months, most done by young black males, he said.

"The stage was already set. It was a perfect storm,” Taaffe said.


 

NBCMiami.com could not immediately confirm the burglary statistic Taaffe cited in a phone call to Sanford Police Tuesday night.

Martin, 17, picked up Skittles and iced tea from a 7-Eleven that Sunday, then headed back toward his father’s girlfriend's home on a rainy, drizzly night. Martin put on his hoodie and ran to take cover. Zimmerman spotted him, got out of his car and followed him.

In Trayvon Martin's final phone call with his own girlfriend, according to Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump, he could be heard saying ,“Why are you following me?” with Zimmerman replying, “What are you doing around here?”

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen shot dead by a neighborhood watch volunteer, tell TODAY's Matt Lauer they want justice for their son and want the shooter, George Zimmerman, arrested.

Their confrontation ended with Martin getting shot in the chest.

“This guy looks like he’s up to no good,” Zimmerman said in a 911 call. Asked by a dispatcher if he was white, Hispanic or black, he replied, "He looks black." Zimmerman's father has said that his son is Hispanic, grew up in a multiracial family, and is not racist.

Twin Lakes’ population is ethnically mixed. A few residents said there is tension within the gated community, but Taaffe insisted Tuesday that Zimmerman was acting out of concern for the safety of the area.

More from NBCMiami.com: A neighbor comes to Zimmerman's defense

"George is a congenial, amiable, admirable person,” he said. "He had a passion and a care for this neighborhood to ensure the safety of everybody here. And, furthermore, George is no Rambo."

Taaffe said that Zimmerman was appointed as a watch captain, despite reports that he appointed himself to the post.

theGrio: Protesters demand repeal of Zimmerman's gun permit

He said he believes his neighbor acted in self-defense, which is what Zimmerman told police. He conceded, however, that the boiling tensions may have been affecting Zimmerman.

At a NAACP forum Wednesday residents of Sanford, Fla., listed their grievances about police treatment of young black men. Neighbors of George Zimmerman, the man who shot unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, have asked him to move out of his townhouse. NBC's Ron Allen reports.

“I think any time you use a weapon, there are certain anger issues working,” Taaffe said. “I think he had fed-up issues. He was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore.”

Zimmerman has not been charged, despite growing calls for his arrest.

Lawyer: Trayvon Martin fearful in final call

"It’s really sad that he's already been convicted in the public media and has already been sentenced to the gas chamber,” Taaffe said. “Let's let justice do its job."

Robert Zimmerman, George's father, told The Orlando Sentinel last week in an emotional interview that his family has received death threats. On claims that his son stalked and killed an innocent black teenager, Robert Zimmerman told The Sentinel, "They're lies."

State Rep. Dennis Baxley, a co-sponsor of the "Stand Your Ground" bill, explains why the law would not have authorized George Zimmerman to "pursue and confront" Trayvon Martin.

"George is going to suffer for years and years," he said.

Taaffe told NBCMiami.com that nothing changes the fact that Martin’s death is “devastating.”

”It's a tragic event – we can’t bring that boy back,” he said. “I wish we could.”

Editor’s note: A clarification was made to this story on March 28, 2012. An earlier version of the story truncated George Zimmerman’s quotes to a 911 operator in a way that may have changed the meaning. See correction here.

 

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