By KYLE HIGHTOWER, Associated Press
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — Women's jewelry and a watch found in Trayvon Martin's school backpack last fall could not be tied to any reported thefts, the Miami-Dade Police Department said Tuesday.
The Miami Herald in its Tuesday editions reported that it had obtained a Miami-Dade Schools Police Department report that showed the slain teenager was suspended in October for writing obscene graffiti on a door at his high school. During a search of his backpack, the report said, campus security officers found 12 pieces of women's jewelry, a watch and a screwdriver that they felt could be used as a burglary tool.
Martin's fatal Feb. 26 shooting in Sanford, Fla., by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman has caused a national firestorm. His family and people at rallies all over the country have demanded the arrest of Zimmerman who says he shot the unarmed 17-year-old in self-defense. Martin was black and Zimmerman's father is white and his mother, Hispanic. Martin's family and their supporters believe race played a part in the decision not to charge Zimmerman.
The Herald reported that when campus security confronted Martin with the jewelry, he told them that a friend had given it to him, but he wouldn't give a name. The report said the jewelry was confiscated and a photo of it was sent to Miami-Dade Police burglary detectives. Miami-Dade school officials declined Tuesday to confirm the report when contacted by The Associated Press, citing federal privacy laws regarding students.
Miami-Dade Police confirmed that it had been asked by school police to help identify the property taken from Martin's backpack. It notified school police that the jewelry did not match any that had been reported stolen.
Martin had previously been suspended for excessive absences and tardiness and, at the time of his death, was serving a 10-day suspension after school officials found an empty plastic bag with marijuana traces in his backpack.
His parents and their lawyer, Benjamin Crump, have said such reports are irrelevant to the shooting and part of an attempt to demonize Martin. Crump did not return calls to The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, black Democratic members of the Florida Legislature are demanding that a special session be called to consider whether to repeal the state's seven-year-old "Stand Your Ground" law, which eliminated a person's duty to retreat when threatened with seriously bodily harm or death.
Sanford police have cited the law as the reason Zimmerman wasn't arrested after the shooting. They are also demanding that a task force appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to examine the shooting and any changes needed to state law begin work immediately instead of waiting for the police investigation to conclude.
"Whether self-defense was a legitimate factor, the law remains intact — with all the same components still in place for more killings and additional claims of self-defense, warranted or not," state Sen. Chris Smith wrote in a statement to the governor. "...I'm sure you will agree that delaying the work of the task force — possibly up to one year or longer — suits no purpose other than to allow more tragedies to unfold."
But Scott and other Republicans have insisted that the state should wait until ongoing police investigations are completed.
Republican Rep. Dennis Baxley, one of the sponsors of the law, said that "when things have cooled off a little bit I think it's worthy to sit down and say is there legislation that is needed."
In Sanford Tuesday, the city manager said that hiring an outsider to run the police department is a priority to help cool tensions caused by Martin's death and the investigation.
Manager Norton Bonaparte said officials were working with the nonprofit group Police Executive Research Forum to identify potential candidates.
Police Chief Bill Lee temporarily stepped down after outrage erupted over the police department's handling of the shooting.
Darren Scott, a 23-year veteran of the Sanford Police Department, was named acting chief. Lee is still employed with the department and receiving his salary.
At a news conference Tuesday, Bonaparte and Scott refused to answer any questions about an information leak to the media. The leak contained an account by Zimmerman that said Martin was the aggressor in a fight leading up to the shooting. Officials have said they will investigate where the leak came from.
"We have a legal system in place and we ask that people let it take its course," Darren Scott said. "I am concerned with everyone's concerns, but I will not comment on the investigation."