Friends Worry about Safety of George Zimmerman, the Man Who Shot Trayvon Martin

Friends and supporters spoke out on Sunday on behalf of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed a teenager in Florida, saying he fears for his safety after receiving death threats.

Justice Rally for Trayvon Martin at Freedom Plaza, NW, Washington DC on Saturday afternoon, 24 March 2012. Photo: Elvert Barnes/Flickr

Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was fatally shot on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. George Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch captain, believed the young man walking through the gated community looked suspicious, reports Reuters. Zimmerman followed him and an altercation ensued.

The next day his death was a top story on the Fox-affiliated television station in Orlando. It took several weeks before the rest of the country found out about the case, according to The New York Times.

Zimmerman is staying at an undisclosed location after widely circulated death threats and word of a $10,000 bounty to find him, said legal adviser Craig Sonner, who said he would represent Zimmerman if charges are filed.

“He couldn’t stop crying. He’s a caring human being,” Joe Oliver, 53, a former television news reporter and anchor in Orlando who has known Zimmerman for several years said.

“I mean, he took a man’s life and he has no idea what to do about it. He’s extremely remorseful about it,” Oliver said, according to The Huff Post.

“I’m a black male and all that I know is that George has never given me any reason whatsoever to believe he has anything against people of color,” Oliver added.

Fury over the shooting in the gated community of Sanford, Florida, of the 17-year-old Martin, who was carrying an iced tea and a bag of Skittles candy, and the lack of an arrest or charges prompted demonstrations nationwide calling for authorities to take action.

Zimmerman has claimed self-defense and has not been charged with any crime, causing an uproar that was readily apparent on social media Web sites.

On Sunday, supporters of Martin staged events at churches, where congregants were encouraged to wear hoodies, or hooded sweatshirts, like the one Martin was wearing when he was killed.

Within days of the national media scrutiny, the Justice Department said it would investigate the case, and on March 23, President Obama addressed it directly, furthering the media dialogue.

President Barack Obama talked about the case on Friday, saying it made him ‘think about my own kids.’ “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Obama said of Martin, who was African-American.

Jacqui Lewis, the church’s senior minister, gave a sermon in which she said people were “fed up with centuries of race-related hatred and fear in this country.”

“We will not rest until this disease called racism is stamped out,” she said, calling for Americans to mix more frequently with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures.

Florida Governor Rick Scott on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday promised a thorough investigation and said he had faith in the state attorney leading it.

He said he was not aware of any requests for protection from Zimmerman, but would provide it if asked. “If he feels unsafe, we’ll make sure nothing happens to him,” Scott said.

“All these people who are threatening George, what makes them any better than the person they think he is?” Oliver said. “You’ve got all these people wanting to lynch the man and they don’t know the whole story. There are huge gaps that are being filled in and interpreted without evidence.”

“I just have to do what’s right, not just for my friend but for everyone involved,” Oliver said. “His mother in law lost her job for this. He’s in hiding. His mother in law can’t see her own daughter because she fears for their lives.”

The New Black Panther Party, a black political organization that takes its name from the radical movement of the 1960s, announced on Saturday it was offering a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman.

“We will reward that individual or group of people who take George Zimmerman into custody and we will deliver him to the authorities. They would be better off holding him than letting him out on the street because there is an angry mindset among black people,” said Mikhail Muhammad of the New Black Panther Party.

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