WASHINGTON, Jul 19 – The US neighborhood watchman who fatally shot a black teen in February apologized for the killing but insisted it was done in self-defense, saying: “I’m not a racist and I’m not a murderer.”
In his first-ever media interview late Wednesday, George Zimmerman said he killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defense after Martin punched him to the ground and repeatedly slammed his head into the cement.
Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder over the February 26 incident. Prosecutors accuse him of racial profiling and say he refused police requests to not follow Martin, who was unarmed and had no criminal record.
The case provoked widespread outrage after Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, was not charged following the initial investigation, with Martin supporters claiming racial bias and slamming Florida’s controversial gun laws.
In his interview Wednesday with Fox News’s conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, Zimmerman restated his account of the incident, which has previously been made public by family members and police reports.
Zimmerman said Martin — who was staying with a relative in the Sanford, Florida gated community and was walking back after buying candy and a soft drink — appeared suspicious as he slowly walked through the rain.
After calling police to report Martin, Zimmerman said he got out of his car to look for a house number so he could tell police where he was. He says Martin then approached and punched him in the face, knocking him down.
Zimmerman said he repeatedly called for help as Martin punched him and slammed his head into the ground, claiming that the screams for help heard during a witness’s call to police were his and not Martin’s.
He then said Martin reached for his gun. “At that point I realized that it wasn’t my gun, it wasn’t his gun, it was the gun.”
Zimmerman grabbed the handgun and shot Martin shortly before police arrived, but said he didn’t find out he had killed the teenager until around an hour later, after he had arrived at a police station.
“I do wish there was something, anything I could have done that wouldn’t have put me in the position where I had to take his life,” Zimmerman said.
“I do want to tell everyone — my wife, my family, my parents, my grandmother, the Martins, the city of Sanford and America that I am sorry that this happened. I hate to think that because of this incident, because of my actions, it’s polarized and divided America, and I’m truly sorry.”