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Crime & Courts

Analyzing Zimmerman iPad in domestic case could take weeks


Published:   |   Updated: September 11, 2013 at 03:10 PM

LAKE MARY — George Zimmerman was taking photos of his wife removing belongings from the house they had shared in the moments before a domestic dispute Monday that has investigators contemplating whether to file criminal charges, according to a police report.

Shellie Zimmerman, who recently filed for divorce, said in the police report released Wednesday that George Zimmerman showed up at the house while she was removing belongings, stuck his arm inside her father’s truck parked outside the house and then locked the front door to the house.

Shellie Zimmerman told police she recorded the dispute on her iPad before George Zimmerman smashed the device.

A police spokesman said Wednesday that law enforcement analysts are having difficulty extracting video from the iPad, which remains key to determining whether either will face charges after the domestic dispute.

Lake Mary police spokesman Zach Hudson said at a news conference that the iPad is in “bad shape.” He said it could be several weeks or months before its video is analyzed because investigators don’t currently have the necessary tools to extract it.

Hudson said without an examination of the footage, he doesn’t expect there to be imminent charges against either person.

“We’re doing everything possible in order to get that video,” Hudson said. “We’re going the extra mile and sooner or later we hope to have something. But at this point there’s definitely no guarantee.”

Along with needing better extraction tools, there are technical issues police are dealing with.

“There is also some chip damage in the iPad, so that is not going to become available to any of us ... for a very long period of time,” Hudson said.

Without video from the iPad or some other piece of independent evidence, legal experts said it will be hard to build a case because Shellie Zimmerman changed her story about her husband threatening her with a gun and decided not to press charges.

“I think it’s severely limited if they can’t get anything from an eyewitness or video,” said Randy McClean, a former prosecutor who now practices criminal defense and family law in Central Florida.

Investigators believe the mobile device captured video of Monday’s dispute at the Lake Mary house where the Zimmermans had been living. Shellie Zimmerman told authorities he smashed it to pieces, but the former neighborhood watch volunteer said she hit him with it.

“Shellie is saying she walked around videotaping George in the household during this confrontation that they had in that household. That is what she’s saying is on that iPad,” Hudson said.

Lake Mary is about seven miles southwest of Sanford, where George Zimmerman fatally shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin during a fight last year. Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, was acquitted in July of all charges in the shooting.

Shellie Zimmerman, 26, had moved out of the house last month but stopped by with her father Monday to gather some remaining items. Shellie Zimmerman’s father owns the house with his wife.

A short time later, Zimmerman arrived with his friends, Hudson said.

Hudson previously said he didn’t know exactly what items started the fight.

Shellie Zimmerman called 911, saying her estranged husband was in his truck and threatening her and her father with a gun. She also said her husband punched her father in the nose. Hours later, she told police she hadn’t seen a gun.

Police said no gun was ever found and that the pair blamed each other for being the aggressor.

Hudson said that as many as seven people were at the house – friends of the Zimmermans – and they all have been questioned by investigators. Hudson said they didn’t see what happened and footage from the house’s surveillance cameras was inconclusive.

Shellie Zimmerman’s father and Zimmerman “put hands on each other” but there were no injuries and the father doesn’t want to press charges either, Hudson said.

Florida law allows police officers to arrest someone for domestic violence without the consent of the victim.

When asked if George or Shellie Zimmerman could be charged, Hudson said: “As of right now, it could be either one or it could be no one.”

On Tuesday, police released a dash cam video showing George Zimmerman being handcuffed after the dispute. In the video, officers ordered Zimmerman to put his hands up and drop to his knees. One officer approaches with his gun drawn while another handcuffs Zimmerman.

Mark O’Mara, who represented George Zimmerman in his murder trial, said on Monday that his client did nothing wrong and the dispute was typical for a couple going through a divorce. On Tuesday, O’Mara said he was not going to represent George Zimmerman in this matter.

“I’ve come to know them as a family, and it’s not a good idea to get in between them,” O’Mara said.

Shellie Zimmerman filed for divorce last week. She and her husband separated a month after he was acquitted July 13 in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Martin in a gated community in Sanford.

Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense when he shot Martin in February 2012. He wasn’t charged until 44 days after the shooting, leading to protests nationwide from people who believed he should have been immediately arrested.

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