Published March 26, 2012
SANFORD, Fla. – The controversy surrounding the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin took a new turn Monday when the Orlando Sentinel reported Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman told police Martin decked him with a single punch, then repeatedly slammed his head into the sidewalk.
The Sentinel said much of Zimmerman's account had been corroborated by witnesses, according to authorities.
As Zimmerman's version of events surfaced, rallies were planned in Sanford and other cities to mark the one-month anniversary of 17-year-old Martin's death.
But as time passed, questions have only multiplied about what happened the night of February 26 as Martin walked home from a 7-Eleven in a gated community in Sanford, about 20 miles north of Orlando.
Zimmerman, who reportedly is in hiding, has claimed he shot Martin, who was unarmed, in self-defense.
Martin's family and thousands who have turned out at rallies on his behalf nationwide claim he was murdered without provocation and raised questions about racism and police handling of the case.
Ben Crump, the Martin family's attorney, told MSNBC, "if George Zimmerman had done what a neighborhood watchman is supposed to do - watch - Trayvon Martin would be alive today."
The Sentinel said Monday that authorities had provided the paper with Zimmerman's account of events, in which he said he called police after spotting Martin, then lost sight of him and was returning to his SUV when the teen allegedly approached him from the left rear and they exchanged words.
Zimmerman said Martin punched him in the nose, then as he fell to the ground, got on top of him and slammed his head into the sidewalk, causing Zimmerman to yell for help.
The paper said at least one witness told police he saw Martin pounding Zimmerman.
Reports had surfaced earlier of people hearing cries for help but it was not clear if they came from Zimmerman or Martin.
A woman who said she and her roommate witnessed the last moments of Martin's life told Dateline NBC they heard the voice of what sounded like a young person in distress just before hearing a gunshot.
"It sounded young," Mary Cutcher said. "It didn't sound like a grown man is my point."
She added that they also saw Zimmerman straddling the teen's body with his hands pressed on his back, making no effort to aid him.
Zimmerman's lawyer, Craig Sonner, and a close friend, Joe Oliver, appeared on NBC's "Today" show Monday to defend him, claiming he was not racist and that he had received a broken nose and gash on the head in the confrontation.