George Zimmerman (1983- ) is an American insurance underwriter who has been charged with second-degree murder for the killing of Trayvon Martin. He is currently out on bail awaiting trial. Zimmerman admits to killing Martin. At issue is whether it was self-defence.
February 26th 2012: Zimmerman was a neighbourhood watchman who was studying to become a policeman. Although he was not on duty that night in his gated community (The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida), he was driving down the street when he saw Trayvon Martin walking alone in the rain in the dark. He had not seen Martin before and thought he looked suspicious. He informed the police. They said they were sending an officer.
That is where Zimmerman’s duties as a neighbourhood watchman ended. But, against the instructions from the police, he got out of his car and followed Martin. They got into a fight and Zimmerman wound up shooting him dead.
He told the police it was self-defence. He said that Martin was beating his head against the sidewalk and threatening to kill him. The back of his head was bleeding, but he was not hurt badly enough to be sent to the hospital.
The police did not buy his story. They wanted to charge him with manslaughter, but the state attorney said they did not have enough to prove it in court. So the police let Zimmerman go free.
In early March the story went viral on the Internet of a 28-year-old white man in Florida getting away with shooting dead a 17-year-old black boy walking back from 7-Eleven armed with only a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea.
On March 17th the recordings of the emergency calls were made public. On one you could hear the cries for help cut short by a gunshot. The story went national. There were protests calling for Zimmerman’s arrest.
On April 11th, more than a month after the shooting, Zimmerman was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder. Bail was set at only $150,000. He is now out on bail awaiting trial.
Race: Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic according to his voter registration. His mother is from Peru while his father is white (Baptist, not Jewish), a retired judge from Virginia. Zimmerman has a great grandfather on his mother’s side who was Afro-Peruvian. Early news reports said Zimmerman was white. The New York Times later said he was white Hispanic.
Weight and height: Zimmerman is 185 pounds (84kg) and 5 foot 8 (1.73m). Early news reports said he weighed over 200 pounds. (Martin was taller but lighter: 158 pounds (72kg) and 5 foot 11 (1.80m). Early news reports put him at 140 pounds.)
Arrested in 2005: Zimmerman was arrested and charged with “resisting officer with violence” and “battery of law enforcement officer,” – both third-degree felonies. Charges were later dropped, which allowed him to get a permit to own a gun.
Domestic violence: Also in 2005 a judge granted his girlfriend a restraining order against him. Zimmerman counterfiled and was granted one as well.