Zimmerman verdict reaction concerns Manatee law officers

jdeleon@bradenton.comJuly 12, 2013 

MANATEE -- With a verdict possible Friday in the controversial George Zimmerman murder trial, Manatee County law enforcement personnel say they are prepared for possible unruly public reaction to the verdict.

An all-female six-member jury will decide whether Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder or a lesser charge in the Feb. 26, 2012, deadly shooting of the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin of Miami Gardens.

A verdict could be reached as early as Friday afternoon.

Zimmerman's defense is scheduled to present closing statements Friday. Law enforcement officials around the state -- and Martin's parents -- are urging a peaceful reaction to the verdict but remain wary of possible violence or demonstrations.

Randy Warren, Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman, said Sheriff Brad Steube has addressed concerns regarding the community's potential reaction.

"He just wants people to be at ease knowing we are always prepared and that we train specifically for things can happen in the community," Warren said.

Warren said the sheriff's office has deputies trained in crowd control.

"We have hope that we won't see anything of that nature in our community but we are prepared and that is why they train all the time for a variety of scenarios," Warren said.

The Bradenton Police Department said it is equally prepared.

"The Bradenton Police Department has made preparations to respond to any civil disturbance(s) that may occur following a verdict in the George Zimmerman trial," Deputy Chief Warren Merriman said in a prepared statement.

Palmetto police hope the community accepts the verdict peacefully.

"We have ongoing operational plans for any sort of civil disturbance that may occur. I hope it doesn't," Deputy Chief Scott Tyler said.

The Sarasota Police Department held a press conference Thursday to assure the community it is prepared as well.

"In anticipation of the upcoming Zimmerman verdict, I felt it was important to reach out to the community to ask for your help," Chief Bernadette DiPino said.

"What I am asking for from our law-abiding citizens is not to allow criminals to use this or any other situation to hurt innocent people to steal or destroy our businesses and homes within our community."

Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-709. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.

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