SANFORD, Fla --Trayvon Martin was suspended from school in October in an incident in which he was found in possession of women's jewelry and a screwdriver that a schools security staffer described as a "burglary tool," The Miami Herald has learned.
Trayvon, a Miami Gardens teenager who claimed that an unnamed friend had given him the jewelry, was not disciplined because of the discovery, but was instead suspended for graffiti, according to a Miami-Dade Schools Police report obtained by The Miami Herald.
A lawyer for the dead teen's family acknowledged Trayvon had been suspended for graffiti, but said the family knew nothing about the jewelry and the screwdriver, calling the information in the report an attempt to "demonize" the youth.
According to the report, on Oct. 21 staffers monitoring a security camera at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School spotted Trayvon and two other students writing "W.T.F.," an acronym for "What the f ," on a hallway locker, according to schools police. The security employee, who knew Trayvon, confronted the teen and looked through his bag for the graffiti marker.
Trayvon's backpack contained 12 pieces of jewelry, in addition to a watch and a large flathead screwdriver, according to the report, which described the screwdriver as a burglary tool.
Trayvon was asked if the jewelry, which was mostly women's rings and earrings, belonged to his family or a girlfriend.
"Martin replied it's not mine. A friend gave it to me," according to the report. Trayvon declined to name the friend.
School police impounded the jewelry and sent photos of the items to detectives at Miami-Dade police for further investigation.
"Martin was suspended, warned and dismissed for the graffiti," according to the report prepared by Miami-Dade Schools Police.
That suspension was followed four months later by another one, in February, in which Trayvon was caught with an empty plastic bag with traces of marijuana in it, the boy's family's attorney has confirmed. A schools police report obtained by The Miami Herald specifies two items: a bag with marijuana residue and a "marijuana pipe."
The suspension was the third for the teen. On Monday, the family also acknowledged Trayvon had earlier been suspended for tardiness and truancy.
The reports of the suspensions surfaced as a more complicated portrait of Trayvon began to emerge Monday. Trayvon was shot to death in Sanford on Feb. 26 during a scuffle with neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. He was suspended from school at the time.
Reacting to the new schools police report, Ben Crump, an attorney for the parents, said they "never heard anything like this about a bag of jewelry. ... And anyway, it's completely irrelevant to what happened Feb. 26. They never heard this, and don't believe it's true. If it were true, why wouldn't they call the parents? Why wasn't he arrested?"
"We think everybody is trying to demonize him."
Trayvon, who was 17 when he died, had never been arrested, he said.
His mother, Sybrina Fulton, said her son never had any problems with gangs or the police. In fact, she said, when she transferred him out of Carol City High School to be closer to home, the school wanted him to stay at Carol City because they liked him and he was a good student, she said.
"They killed my son and now they are trying to kill his reputation," she said.
Another lawyer for the family said she didn't put much credence in the report about the jewelry and the screwdriver.
"This is someone in a school writing a report, rumor as far as I'm concerned," said attorney Natalie Jackson.
At a press conference held Monday after a town forum in Eatonville, near Sanford, the parents, flanked by their attorneys along with the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, addressed the report about the empty marijuana baggie.
"If he and his friends were experimenting with marijuana, that is still completely irrelevant," Crump said. "It is one of the things the family has said: 'What does that have to do with him killing my son?"'
Sharpton said he warned the family from the start that anything negative about Trayvon would be dragged out in an effort to make him out to be a "junkie and a thief." He knew that would happen, he said, because it's occurred in every similar case he has ever been involved in.
"The only thing that's relevant is what Zimmerman knew," Sharpton said. "Let's not play this double standard of trying to damage who is dead and sanitize who is the cause of the death."
The teen's family and their supporters spoke after The Orlando Sentinel reported that Zimmerman told authorities that Trayvon beat Zimmerman's head against the sidewalk.
Family spokesman Ryan Julison said the family has always maintained that Trayvon's suspension had nothing to do with anything violent.
"The fact of the matter is that an empty baggie does not change what occurred," he said. "The reason he was suspended does not change the fact that if George Zimmerman had stayed in his car, none of this would have happened."
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