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George Zimmerman Knew Several Sanford Police Officers Before Shooting

Witnesses to the Trayvon Martin shooting are changing their stories.

ByABC News
May 23, 2012, 1:40 PM

MIAMI May 23, 2012 -- George Zimmerman, who was not initially charged by police in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, was familiar with some of the officers in the Sanford, Fla., police department, having gone on several "ride alongs" with the cops, he told the city's mayor last year.

But Zimmerman, a criminal studies major, was harsh in his criticism of the cops he had met on the Sanford force calling their on-the-job conduct "disgusting."

Zimmerman, a member of the neighborhood watch, voiced his opinion at a January 2011 city commission hearing that included then mayor-elect Jeff Triplet.

One officer "showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps, explained to me that he doesn't carry a long gun in his vehicle because in his words anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork and you're going to find me as far away from it," Zimmerman said.

He added the officer "took two lunch breaks and attended a going away party for one of his officers."

These rides, along with new video showing Zimmerman roaming the police department unescorted just three days after the shooting, are reviving old questions of Zimmerman's relationship with the department that decided against charging him with a crime on the night of the shooting.

When ABC News asked the Sanford Police force in mid-March whether Zimmerman had any contact or relationship with the police force, the answer on more than one occasion was no.

"We do not have specific dates Mr. Zimmerman may have ridden or with whom he rode, if in fact he ever did ride with SPD," Capt. Robert O'Connor of the Sanford Police Department said in a statement today.

Zimmerman was later charged by a state prosecutor with second degree murder in Martin's death on Feb. 26.

These revelations come as a number of witnesses who claimed to have seen or heard parts of Zimmerman's fatal confrontation with Martin, apparently changed or expanded their testimony in the weeks after the shooting.

In a March 13 ABC News article on possible police missteps in the investigation, it was also noted that some of the witnesses felt that police had "corrected" their testimony.

Given that Zimmerman's trial may not take place for a year the memories of the dozen or so witnesses that dark rainy night -- memories possibly influenced evolving coverage of the case in the news -- would likely be hotly contested in court.

Among the witness versions that have changed are:

- Witness 5 told Sanford police investigator Chris Serino: "There was no fighting going on at the time the gun went off. We were both in the kitchen, the window was open. There was no fighting and the fight that happened." But in the 911 audio clearly includes what sounds like a struggle and a plea for help a split second before the gunshot is heard.