Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman become one of the most hated men in America after he killed a 17-year-old black youth named Trayvon Martin in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. The public widely accused Zimmerman—aged 28 when the Feb. 26, 2012, murder occurred—of racially profiling the youth. That’s because shortly before Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, he phoned the police to say the teen looked suspicious. However, Zimmerman reported that Trayvon had done nothing other than look at the buildings in the gated community. While large swaths of the public have condemned Zimmerman for killing a teenager, his supporters have argued that he’s an upstanding man incapable of cold-blooded murder. So who is the real George Zimmerman? Facts about his life, statements from his family and friends and his police record piece together a profile.
His Family Background
George Zimmerman’s ethnic background seems to have baffled the news media. He’s at times been described as solely white, solely Hispanic and as a “white Hispanic.” So what is Zimmerman’s cultural background? Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Peruvian. That likely means he has both European heritage and heritage indigenous to Latin America. His parents' careers have led to greater scrutiny of Zimmerman. That’s because Robert Zimmerman served as a magistrate judge and Gladys Zimmerman worked as a deputy court clerk. Many wondered if his parents’ legal connections helped George Zimmerman avoid arrest after killing Trayvon Martin. It’s unclear what role, if any, Robert and Gladys Zimmerman played in the case.
History of Violence
While much has been made over the fact that Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school multiple times for infractions such as tardiness, tagging graffiti and carrying a baggie with traces of marijuana in the months leading up to his death, George Zimmerman’s run-ins with the law have largely been overlooked by his supporters. In July 2005, Zimmerman was arrested for shoving a police officer during an underage drinking raid. The charges he faced were dropped after Zimmerman completed an alcohol education program. That same summer his ex-fiancée filed a restraining order against him, alleging that Zimmerman hit her. He responded by taking out a restraining order against her, claiming that she’d hit him with a baseball bat. That same year Zimmerman reportedly lost his job working security at illegal house parties for losing his temper. A coworker described Zimmerman to the New York Daily News as a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality type.
“He had a temper and he became a liability,” the source told the Daily News. “One time this woman was acting a little out of control. She was drunk. George lost his cool and totally overreacted. It was weird, because he was such a cool guy, but he got all nuts. He picked her up and threw her. It was pure rage. She twisted her ankle. Everyone was flipping out.”
A “Jekyll and Hyde” personality would certainly explain why characterizations of Zimmerman vary widely. While his ex-fiancée and former coworker describe him as violent, family friends describe Zimmerman as someone who cared for and mentored children and served as an altar boy as a child.
His Offensive Nickname
Trayvon Martin’s Twitter handle may have been “no_limit_n—ga,” but his killer also took on a nickname adapted from the N-Word. George Zimmerman used the moniker “DatNiggyTB” for his MySpace account. The name is a mash up of his nicknames “Dat Niggy” and “Tugboat,” or TB, because of his large size. A family member denied that Zimmerman used the name as a racial slur, instead arguing that black friends gave him the moniker. After Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, he made a concerted effort to counter accusations that he’s racially prejudiced. His supporters have pointed out that he has black friends and has mentored black children. One black friend, Joe Oliver, has vouched for Zimmerman on numerous occasions.
The Real George Zimmerman Website
In April 2012, George Zimmerman made the unusual move to launch a website called therealgeorgezimmerman.com. On the website, he thanks his supporters, requests donations for his legal and living expenses and features quotes by philosopher Edmund Burke and others such as, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” However, Zimmerman did not release any statements about the events leading up to his fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012. Instead, he simply stated, “ I am grateful to my friends that have come to my aid…never questioning my integrity or actions, understanding that I cannot discuss the details of the event on February 26th, and allowing law enforcement to proceed with their investigation unhindered.”
Rejected by Trayvon Martin’s Family
During a bail hearing after George Zimmerman’s long-awaited arrest for second-degree murder, Zimmerman apologized to his teen victim’s family. He even asked for a private meeting with them. But Trayvon Martin’s parents rebuffed Zimmerman, arguing that his delayed apology suggested that he wasn’t genuinely sorry for taking their son’s life. What else casts doubt on Zimmerman’s apology? He stated during the April 20, 2012, hearing, “I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. And I did not know if he was armed or not.” However, in the 911 call Zimmerman made before killing the 17-year-old, he described the youth as being in his “late teens” to the police dispatcher. Zimmerman narrowed down Trayvon Martin’s age with spot-on precision. Did he forget telling the police dispatcher this or is Zimmerman continuing to weave together a tale that makes him appear less culpable in the teen’s death?
The George Zimmerman murder trial began on June 10, 2013. A jury of six women, five whites and one Latina, found Zimmerman not guilty July 13 of murdering Trayvon Martin.