An invented part of the controversy over the killing of Trayvon Martin revolves around whether George Zimmerman had some legal obligation to obey the suggestion by the 911 dispatcher that he not pursue Trayvon Martin (there is also some dispute over whether Zimmerman obeyed that instruction and was overtaken by Martin while returning to his car, but let's press on).
In the FAQ portion of their explanatory letter the City of Sanford claims this is a non-issue since a 911 dispathcer does not speak with the full weight of the law:
If Zimmerman was told not to continue to follow Trayvon, can that be considered in this investigation?
Yes it will; however, the telecommunications call taker asked Zimmerman “are you following him”. Zimmerman replied, “yes”. The call taker stated “you don’t need to do that”. The call taker’s suggestion is not a lawful order that Mr. Zimmerman would be required to follow. Zimmerman’s statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon.
Time will tell. But in the course of poking around, I ran across this jaw-dropping illustration of the impotence and irrelevance of the 911 dispatcher:
On November 14, 2007, at about 2:00 p.m. a Pasadena, Texas man named Joe Horn was working at his computer inside his own residence in the 4900 block of Timberline when he heard the sound of breaking glass. He looked out the window of his home and saw two Hispanic men, Miguel Antonio DeJesus and Diego Ortiz, breaking into his neighbor’s house – a neighbor that Horn did not know very well. The 61-year-old Horn retrieved his 12-gauge shotgun from his pickup truck where he kept it for personal protection. Horn then called a 911 operator to report the burglary in progress. He explicitly told the operator that he was armed with a shotgun and that he was going out to kill the two men. The 911 operator repeatedly instructed Horn to remain inside his house until the police arrived. The following are excerpts from that 911 call:
"I'm not going to let them go. I'm not going to let them get away with this," Horn told the operator. “I'm gonna shoot. I'm gonna shoot."
"Stay inside the house and don't go out there," the operator calmly instructed Horn. "I know what you're feeling, but it's not worth shooting someone over this."
"I have a right to protect myself,” Horn replied. “And a shotgun is a legal weapon. It's not an illegal weapon."
"Mr. Horn, I want you to listen to me carefully, OK?,” the 911 operator said. “I've got officers coming out there. I don't want you to go outside that house and I don't want you to have that gun in your hand when the officers are poking around out there."
"I ain't going to let them get away with this,” Horn adamantly replied. “They stole something. They got a bag. I'm doing this."
"Don't go out the house," the operator warned. "Don't be shooting nobody."
"Property's not worth killing someone over. OK? Don't go out the house.
Don't be shooting nobody,"
“I can't take a chance in getting killed over this. OK?” Horn replied.
"Mr. Horn, do not go outside the house,” the operator demanded. “You're going to get yourself shot if you go outside that house with a gun."
"You wanna make a bet," Horn responded. "I'm gonna kill them. They're gonna get away."
"I don't want you going outside, Mr. Horn," the operator said, almost futilely.
"Well, here it goes, buddy," Horn said. "You hear the shotgun clicking, and I'm going."
The sound of the shotgun clicking was picked up on the 911 tape.
“Move, you’re dead,” Horn warning the two men could be heard on the tape.
Three shotgun blasts were then picked up by the 911 recorder.
"Get the law over here quick. I had no choice," Horn frantically pleaded with the 911 operator. "They came in the front yard with me. I had no choice."
If that was a Hollywood script who would believe it?