TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Governor Rick Scott said Thursday that no matter what the verdict is in the George Zimmerman trial, law enforcement across the state will be ready.
The jury in the racially charged case began hearing closing arguments Thursday afternoon and the case could go to the jury as early as Friday.
“We’ve got great sheriffs, police chiefs, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, I’ve been in contact with them, they’re ready for whatever happens,” Scott said during a morning appearance on WPEC TV in West Palm Beach. “But hopefully the right thing happens here, and we’ll have a verdict that everybody understands.”
A number of agencies, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, have been coordinating potential responses with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and the Sanford Police Department, which have been the lead agencies since the February 2012 shooting by Zimmerman of Trayvon Martin, a Miami Gardens teen who was staying with his father in Sanford.
“We’re assisting if they need us for anything,” said Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Ginette Rodriguez.
FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said Sanford-area law enforcement requested the state assistance.
“As always, we will assist local law enforcement if they request any assistance,” Plessinger said.
Most agencies are monitoring the case, but don’t expect any local public backlash whichever way the jury rules. A spokeswoman for the Florida National Guard also said no directives have been made to be on alert with the verdict pending.
Members of Martin’s family attended a town hall meeting Tuesday at the North Dade Regional Library where the possibility of violence was discussed. A member of the Martin family has also set up a Facebook page to urge people to conduct peaceful protests.
Miami-Dade Police Deputy Director Juan Perez told CBS4 that plans have been discussed to avoid a riot similar to the 1980 race riots in Liberty City that followed the death of Arthur McDuffie, an insurance salesman and former Marine who was beaten to death by a group of white Miami police officers.
One way to reduce the chance for post-verdict violence may be to set up zones for people to protest, Perez said.
“I think now we’ve come a long way as a community and as law enforcement in merging together and bridging together our resources,” Perez said.