Zimmerman’s 911 Call – Fantasy #1

Zimmerman’s 911 Call – Fantasy #1:
The Dispatcher Challenges Zimmerman


This is the first in a series of fictional accounts of George Zimmerman’s non-emergency “911” call to the Sanford Police Department on the night he murdered Trayvon Martin.  Here, the dispatcher challenges Zimmerman’s questions and answers, and provides guidance to him during his encounter with Martin.

This fictional conversation, Fantasy #1, is driven by the actual statements made on that call.  Every word the dispatcher and Zimmerman spoke on that fateful call is contained herein; however, words, phrases, sentences and dialogues were added to entertain the fantasy that the dispatcher steers Zimmerman in the right direction, that the night ends in an entirely different way.

The transcript of Zimmerman’s actual call can be found here:

The audio of Zimmerman’s actual call can be found here:

Dispatcher: Sanford Police Department [unintelligible] the line’s being recorded [unintelligible] …

Zimmerman: Hey we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy, uh, [near] Retreat View Circle, um, the best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

Dispatcher: OK, you say he looks “real suspicious” and “up to no good” and “on drugs” but what exactly is he doing besides “just walking around” and “looking about”?

Zimmerman: Well, uh, nothing really.

Dispatcher: OK, well, that’s what you’re calling about?  A guy just walking around?  What’s your concern?  Did he assault someone?  Did he break into a car or a house?  Did he paint some graffiti on a wall?  And this guy is he white, black, or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

Dispatcher: What do you mean “he looks black”?  Is he black?

Zimmerman:  Yeah.

Dispatcher: Did you see what he was wearing?

Zimmerman: Yeah. A dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie, and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes. He’s [unintelligible], he was just staring…

Dispatcher: A hoodie?  Nice, I have a grey one myself.  Love it, keeps me warm and dry on a cool rainy Florida night, like tonight.  Plus my hoodie helps keep those nasty Florida mosquitoes away from my ears.  OK, he’s just walking around the area…

Zimmerman: …looking at all the houses.

Dispatcher: OK… looking at “all” the houses or just some of them?

Zimmerman: Now he’s just staring at me.

Dispatcher: So he’s walking around looking at all the houses and now he’s staring at you?  But you’ve been staring at him.

Zimmerman: Uh, yeah, ok, whatever.

Dispatcher: OK—you said it’s 1111 Retreat View? Or 111?

Zimmerman: That’s the clubhouse…

Dispatcher: That’s the clubhouse, do you know what the—he’s near the clubhouse right now?

Zimmerman: Yeah, now he’s coming towards me.

Dispatcher: Ok. Well he’s got every right to walk around and walk towards you, especially since you’ve been staring at him.

Zimmerman: He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male.

Dispatcher:  How old would you say he looks?

Zimmerman: He’s got button on his shirt, late teens.

Dispatcher: So button on his shirt equals late teens ok.

Zimmerman: Something’s wrong with him. Yup, he’s coming to check me out, he’s got something in his hands, I don’t know what his deal is.

Dispatcher: Ok, his deal is probably that you’ve been staring at him for quite a while now, a kid who is doing nothing wrong, right?, and you’ve probably freaked him out.  By the way, why do you think something’s wrong with him?  Can you see what’s in his hands?  Is it a gun?  Is it a cell phone?  Teens call and text on ‘em all the time.  Just let me know if he does anything ok?

Zimmerman: How long until you get an officer over here?

Dispatcher: Yeah we’ve got someone on the way, he’ll be there in a few minutes, just let me know if this guy does anything else.

Zimmerman: Okay. These assholes they always get away. When you come to the clubhouse you come straight in and make a left.  Actually you would go past the clubhouse.

Dispatcher: Which assholes exactly are you referring to?

Zimmerman: You know, these black kids with hoodies who walk around looking at houses.

Dispatcher: You mean black kids with hoodies who walk around looking at houses and have done nothing wrong, always get away?

Zimmerman: These assholes always get away.

Dispatcher: So it’s on the lefthand side from the clubhouse?

Zimmerman: No, you go in straight through the entrance and then you make a left…uh you go straight in, don’t turn, and make a left.  Shit he’s running.

Dispatcher: He’s running?  Ok, that’s fine.  Running is not against the law in Florida, George.  Did you witness him commit a crime?

Zimmerman: Uh, no.

Dispatcher: Which way is he running?

Zimmerman: Down towards the other entrance to the neighborhood.

Dispatcher: Which entrance is that that he’s heading towards?

Zimmerman: The back entrance…fucking [unintelligible]

Dispatcher: Are you following him?

Zimmerman: Yeah

Dispatcher: Ok, we don’t need you to do that.

Zimmerman: Ok

Dispatcher: Ok, did you hear me sir?  It sounds like you’re still following him.  I said we don’t need you to do that.  The Sanford Police Department does not need you to do that.

Zimmerman: Ok

Dispatcher: Ok, so what are you doing now?

Zimmerman: I’m following him.

Dispatcher: Ok, I just told you We. Don’t. Need. You. To. Do. That.  We, the Sanford Police Department, don’t need you to do that.  That means don’t follow him.  Ok?  So why are you still following him?

Zimmerman: Because he’s a suspicious black male with a hoodie probably on drugs looking at houses and staring at me and running.

Dispatcher: Ok, let me tell you one more time, we don’t need you to do that.  Stop chasing him.  There are officers on the way who will be there in a few minutes.  Ok?

Zimmerman: Ok

Dispatcher: Ok, so what are you doing now?

Zimmerman: I’m chasing him.

Dispatcher: Ok, maybe we have a bad connection or something?  Can you hear me?  Can you hear me now?   I’ve told we don’t need you to follow him.  That means stop following him and wait until a real police officer arrives.

Zimmerman: Uh, I don’t understand….

Dispatcher: You are the one who called us, right?  You know that I answered the phone and said  “Sanford Police Department” right?

Zimmerman: Uh, yeah.

Dispatcher: Ok, so you know that this is the Sanford Police Department and that because of your request, real police officers are being dispatched to your area, right?

Zimmerman: Uh, yeah.

Dispatcher: And that’s what you want me to do, right?  Dispatch police officers?

Zimmerman: Uh, yeah.  Hoodie, he’s wearing a hoodie.  Black male.

Dispatcher: Yes, got that. Black male, teen, wearing a hoodie.

Zimmerman: Yeah.  Assholes always get away.  Black male.

Dispatcher: Yes, and he’s a teen wearing a hoodie.

Zimmerman: These assholes always get away.

Dispatcher:  Ok, relax sir.   Remain calm.  We need you to remain calm and just monitor the situation until the real police arrive.  The officers will take it from there.

Zimmerman:  Yeah.  Ok.  Hoodie.  He’s wearing a hoodie.

Dispatcher:  Ok, what’s he doing now?

Zimmerman: Skittles.  Eating skittles.  These assholes always eat skittles and get away.  And wear hoodies.  Black male.

Dispatcher: Alright sir what is your name?

Zimmerman: George…He ran.

Dispatcher:  Alright George, it’s ok that he ran, he wasn’t doing anything wrong you said, right?  What’s your last name?

Zimmerman: Zimmerman

Dispatcher: And George what’s the phone number you’re calling from?

Zimmerman: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Dispatcher: Alright George we do have them on the way, do you want to meet with the officer when they get out there?

Zimmerman: Alright, where you going to meet with them at?

Dispatcher: George, I’m not gonna meet with them, you are.  Got it?

Zimmerman: Oh yeah, that’s cuz you’re there and I’m here.

Dispatcher: Yes, that’s right George.  Excellent.

Zimmerman: If they come in through the gate, tell them to go straight past the club house, and uh, straight past the club house and make a left, and then they go past the mailboxes, that’s my truck…[unintelligible]

Dispatcher: What address are you parked in front of?

Zimmerman: I don’t know, it’s a cut through so I don’t know the address.

Dispatcher: Okay you previously said 111 Retreat View Circle.  Do you live in the area?

Zimmerman: Yeah, I…[unintelligible]

Dispatcher: What’s your apartment number?

Zimmerman: It’s a home it’s 1950, oh crap I don’t want to give it all out, I don’t know where this kid is.

Dispatcher: It’s ok that you don’t know where he is.  You said he hasn’t done anything wrong.  The police officers will be there in a few minutes.  Okay do you want to just meet with them right near the mailboxes then, at your truck?

Zimmerman: Yeah that’s fine.

Dispatcher: Alright George, I’ll let them know to meet you around there okay?  At your truck, near the mailboxes, ok?

Zimmerman: Actually could you have them call me and I’ll tell them where I’m at?

Dispatcher: No George, I need you to meet them at your truck, near the mailboxes.  Understand?

Zimmerman: Yeah, ok, they’re gonna meet me at my truck.

Dispatcher: Okay, yeah that’s no problem.

Zimmerman: Should I give you my number or you got it?

Dispatcher: Yeah I got it

Zimmerman: Yeah you got it.

Dispatcher: Ok, great, so what are you doing now George?

Zimmerman: I’m chasing him.

Dispatcher: You’re what?  You’re chasing the kid after I told you not to?  Stop stalking him George.  Stop scaring the kid.  Just go back to your truck and wait for the police.

Zimmerman: Ok

Dispatcher: Okay great, I’ll let them know to call you when you’re in the area.  Make sure you go back to your truck now, George.

Zimmerman: Ok.

Dispatcher:  Are you walking back to your truck now?

Zimmerman: Well, he’s running….

Dispatcher: George, go back to your truck.  The police will be there momentarily.  Go back to your truck now George.  This is the Sanford Police Department telling you to go back to your truck now.

Zimmerman: Oh, the police department.  Ok, yeah.  That’s right.  You don’t need me to chase him.  Ok, I’m going back.

Dispatcher: Ok, great.  That’s the right thing to do George.  You can file a report with the officers once they arrive.

Zimmerman: Ok, yeah, sounds good.  Fucking assholes.  Hoodies.  Black males.  Teens.  Always get away….

Dispatcher: Ok, George, relax.  You at your truck now?

Zimmerman:  Almost there.  Yeah, ok, I’m here.

Dispatcher:  Great, you did the right thing George.

Zimmerman: Thanks.

Dispatcher: You’re welcome.



In this fantasy, the Sanford Police Dispatcher was able to convince George Zimmerman that Trayvon Martin was not a threat, that there was no crime being committed and that Zimmerman should remain calm and go back to his truck.  In this fantasy, Zimmerman never confronts Martin, who arrives safely at his father’s fiancée’s house to finish his bag of Skittles and continue his conversation with Rachel Jeantel.  The outside world never becomes aware of any of these insignificant events and everyday people.


Brooklyn, NY
July 24, 2013

© 2013 by Mark Anthony Caldeira


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Farewell, Alexander Cockburn

“Cockburn’s weekly pieces…have set a new standard of gutter journalism in this country.”
Norman Podhoretz, Commentary


The Incomparable Alexander Cockburn  (June 6, 1941 – July 21, 2012)

I met Alexander Cockburn in 1986 when I was a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  He had come to speak on the state of radical journalism, or some similarly sexy subject.  There was a stretch of payphones (those ancient communication devices with rotary dial that required those ancient forms of currency, coins) in the basement of the student center, down the hall from the room where he was about to speak.  I was on a call in one of the booths and felt the man to my left slam down his handset and step around me.  I turned, looked, and impulsively blurted out, “Alexander Cockburn!” to the person at the other end of the line.  Cockburn quickly stopped and peered at me.  “Yes,” he asked – or said.

Cockburn began his talk by offering that censorship exists in all corners of the media, including – to the shock and horror of the mostly left-wing crowd of intellectuals that night – at the venerable Nation magazine.  When pressed, he criticized not only Victor Navasky’s heavy pen, but also the editors of The Nation for imposing nonsensical stylistic and grammatical conformity in the pages of this respected journal of opinion.  For Cockburn, how you say something is almost as important as what you say.  Robbing the writer of certain literary gestures that convey meaning was, in his view, indefensible, and he defended all his fiercely opinionated opinions with ferocity.

At that time I was a columnist for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.  My progressive colleagues and I would devour the OP/ED pages of the left, right and center to keep up with the editorial writing of the day.  But to understand deeply the daily updates in the Cold War, Central America or Israel/Palestine, it was really only Cockburn who could be trusted for a truly radical analysis.  He was the barometer that measured the political pressure of each issue at every altitude of deception.  His insight, his wit, his compassion – were all rooted in a defense of the victims of capitalism.  The way he ruthlessly dismantled mainstream reporting on Central America in the 1980s using his typewriter as surgeon’s scalpel was especially gratifying and an invaluable education; these columns alone merit inclusion in all graduate studies of critical journalism.

I met Cockburn again a few times at The Nation over the next few years, but knew him only through his writings.  In some respects, the less you know a public person personally, the better you are able to understand that private person’s public persona.  Cockburn had an enviable adoration for his father, the communist writer Claud Cockburn, and would often quote his mantra: “When all is dark, read Marx.”  For many on the left during those dark days of Reaganism, reading Cockburn was like reading Marx, except where Marx said ‘Capitalism” Cockburn said ‘Empire’.  Re-reading Marx’s “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” I marveled at how it could have been penned just as well by Cockburn.  He had the uncanny ability, like Marx, to simultaneously plant his feet in the mud of facts and keep his head soaring unsullied at 35,000 feet.  He knew Marxist economics better than most Marxists.  Cockburn had the natural tendency to ground things in the grinding production and consumption that keeps the Empire chugging along.  He was the perfect mating of form and content: He married, more naturally than anyone before or since, empathy for the oppressed with an unparalleled literary style.  Cockburn burned with the word.  I sometimes wondered if the pages of The Nation should have been constructed of fire-rated material solely to withstand the scorching flames hurled against a myriad of mostly deserving fiends in Beat the Devil.

Cockburn made a fun language-gamer when he playfully gazed into the postmodern meta-narrative and structurally critiqued the deconstruction site of discourse commoditization like it made no simulacra of différance, relatively speaking.  But in the end (and in the beginning, and in the middle), Cockburn wrote – lived – with the premise that real social change demands real social analysis, which begins with real, human beings living in real, concrete economic conditions.  When all is dark, read Cockburn.

To say that Alexander Cockburn and Christopher Hitchens were the two most dominant and influential writers of the left over the last few decades would not be too much off the mark.  Those Nation issues in the mid and late 1980s were packed with the one-two punch of Cockburn and Hitchens.  Many readers just assumed the two were ideological brothers.  Over the years, however, the philosophical chasm between these two revealed itself.  Upon learning that Hitchens’ Nation column, Minority Report, was written by a white, male Brit of comfortable means, I remember thinking, “Well, then, who writes the Majority Report?”  I never thought of asking, “Who, then, writes Coddle the Devil?”

There has been much praise, most of it deserved, of Hitchens and his craft in all the press since his passing.  Navasky even fell all over Hitchens’ skill at composing an unsigned editorial, “not one word of which had to be altered,” while rightly pissed on liquid lunch.  This kind of adoration surely functioned repeatedly in Hitchens’ life to reinforce his superstition that great writers aren’t great without great flaws, that to write singularly he had to drink and smoke doubly.  But it was Hitchens’ oratory skills and physical presence – there wasn’t an opponent, left, right or far right whom he did not succeed in gutting on-on-one – that earned him that cosmopolitan fame which Cockburn evaded.  Where Hitchens made temporary homes in green rooms, five star hotels and cushy seats in front of the camera hobnobbing with, as Cockburn would say, agents of Empire, Cockburn could be found driving along the dusty interstates of middle-somewhere to pobretería-ville, to the next labor rally or protest.

Accusations of anti-Semitism often shadowed Cockburn’s pen, and each time they perfectly proved his point that politics were at play.  Cockburn had the chutzpah to demonstrate not only that criticism of Israel is distinct from and independent of anti-Semitism (in fact, many public defenders of Israel are private anti-Semites) but also how accusations of anti-Semitism now function, unfortunately, not to identify real hatred of Jews but too often to quash criticism of Israel.  Conflating “Israel” with “Jews” results in believing criticism of Israel is necessarily anti-Semitic.  Cockburn was no more an anti-Semite for his scathing attacks on Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, for example, than he was anti-American for his attacks on the United States for its treatment of, well, you name it.  Did Cockburn devote a disproportionate word count to Israel?  Perhaps – in part, because Israel is the major benefactor of U.S. largesse (and, therefore, its concerns have huge sway over US policy) and, in part, because he believed Israel holds itself to be separate and unequal, yet does not like to be held to this higher standard by others.  Cockburn was arguably an anti-Zionist who believed that it was the establishment of the state of Israel in Palestine and its necessary displacement of the Palestinian inhabitants that is the root of the conflict.  If the tables were turned, Cockburn would reason, and the Palestinians ruled the Israelis with the same “ethnic cleansing” as the Israelis now rule the Palestinians, the world would not flip the channel like Americans do for a cricket match. Arguing about the root of this conflict has done only great harm to the immediate task of creating lasting peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians.  Certainly, to uproot a nation, as some anti-Zionists have proposed, is a farce begging to repeat itself as tragedy.

Over the course of his long and voluminous career, Cockburn took aim at more marks than a NRA lobbyist.  Without saying, Cockburn was not always right: His misses – and some were far-off – were usually the result of his burning desire to remain consistently contrary and to go after not the easy kill.  He remained unconvinced of the human contribution to – and, therefore, the ultimate duty to address – global warming, for prime example.  Cockburn’s love affair with the outsider Ralph Nader was understandable, if not a bit overdone, but his ongoing flirtations with such narcissistic lightweights as Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul were simply grotesque, especially from the point of view of women’s issues.  Cockburn spent what many thought to be an undeservingly generous amount of time and energy criticizing and insulting could-be comrades, be they colleagues at The Nation or other progressive writers and personalities.  In fact, it sometimes seemed as if Cockburn’s vitriol was meted out at an inverse proportion to the distance his subject was from him ideologically.  John Poindexter and Oliver North: “conscientious executors.”  Christopher Hitchens: “right-wing codger.”  Very rarely, if ever, did Cockburn retract, redo or regret what he had written; he was that resolute.  His recalculation of Stalin’s victims based on what he argued was an unemotional, demographic approach was viewed by some as redwashing, atrocity downsizing, or fuzzy Bolshevik math.  I call it classic Cockburn: Be forever unswayed by power.  Anything else would be a “disservice to history and to truth.”

In light of recent revelations about NSA spying and violations of Americans’ privacy, I can’t help but mention Cockburn’s prescience while arguing the case against the candidate Obama.  “In February [2008],” Cockburn writes, “seeking a liberal profile in the primaries, Obama stood against warrantless wiretapping. His support for liberty did not survive its second trimester; he aborted it with a vote for warrantless wiretapping. The man who voted to reaffirm the Patriot Act declared that ‘the ability to monitor and track individuals who want to attack the United States is a vital counterterrorism tool.’”  Another vision of things that came to pass: “At home he [Obama] has crooked the knee to bankers and Wall Street, to the oil companies, the coal companies, the nuclear lobby, the big agricultural combines.”

I read Cockburn’s remarks on Hitchens’ passing and left with the feeling that Alex was still being cruel and unforgiving to his old friend; that for Alex, politics always trumped friendship; that ideas are always more important than the human beings who birth them.  Of course, none of this is true.  Obviously, Alex and Christopher never had as close a friendship as the world assumed.  Assuredly, Alex believed to whom much is given, much is expected.  Alex’s special brand of venom was reserved for those who failed at this.  Christopher was brilliant, was given much, and so received much of Cockburn’s wrath since he failed, in Alex’s eyes, quite often to earn the “left credentials” deserving of his fame.

There is always much more to things than what we now know.  I could not have imagined that Alex was writing Christopher’s counter obit knowing that someone might soon be writing his.  Because, while Christopher battled a very public war with cancer, Alex quietly toiled to beat his devil.  The Nation said that Alexander Cockburn died unexpectedly: I’m sure he would have disagreed.  Christopher said, “I’m dying, but so are you.”  And so are we all.  Alex’s and Christopher’s pluck reminds us that we all should keep our promises, and walk those miles, before we sleep.

Navasky, in his tribute to Alex said “nobody wrote better than” Cockburn, and he is half right (aside: I wonder if this statement referred to Alex only because of the timing of Alex’s and Christopher’s respective departures).  The more important half is this: nobody thought better than Cockburn.  As Jeffery St. Clair, Cockburn’s friend and co-founder of CounterPunch, put it, Alex “taught at least two generations how to think, how to look at the world, how to live a life of joyful and creative resistance.”

The blogosphere is littered with acerbic, witty, erudite, Cockburn/Hitchens-spawned wanna-be critics.  Most exist, one way or another, because of Alex, and because of Christopher.  The Nation, for example, is home to many excellent writers and thinkers.  However, Alexander Cockburn comes once in a generation.  Cha bhithidh a leithid ami riamh.

If the great I.F. Stone was a “gentle and indefatigable gadfly,” and the popular Hitchens “a gadfly with gusto,” then Alex was certainly the gadfly’s gadfly.  We all were lucky to have crossed paths with Cockburn, warts and all – colleagues, editors, writers, readers, admirers, critics, artists, mechanics, students, union members, carpenters, undocumented workers, horses, dogs, 60’s automobiles.  One day, I’m sure, I will stop looking in The Nation’s table of contents for his name.

There is a poem by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda entitled, “So Is My Life,” that I have loved for so long, that seems fitting to share here:

My duty moves along with my song:
I am I am not: that is my destiny.
I exist not if I do not attend to the pain
of those who suffer: they are my pains.
For I cannot be without existing for all,
for all who are silent and oppressed,
I come from the people and I sing for them:
my poetry is song and punishment.
I am told: you belong to darkness.
Perhaps, perhaps, but I walk toward the light.
I am the man of bread and fish
and you will not find me among books,
but with women and men:
they have taught me the infinite.

Thank you for living the way you lived, Alex.

No Exocets of ennui.


Carry on.


Brooklyn, NY
July 2012 / July 2013

© 2013 by Mark Anthony Caldeira

Note: Portions of this article were published in a different form as a comment to The Nation’s tribute to Alexander Cockburn



August 16, 2013: I recommend reading this tribute by Ken Silverstein, Alex’s long-time friend and collaborator, and CounterPunch founder.  Ken’s writings at Harper’s can be found here.


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