Who is this Sanford man who killed a teenager, who sparked a national outcry over racial profiling, vigilantism, and sweeping shoot-first self-defense laws in 23 states?
Who is George Zimmerman?
What we know about the 28-year-old crime watch volunteer is that he claims he shot in self-defense after chasing down 17-year-old Trayvon Martin against police orders -- although dispatch tapes are not entirely clear on how emphatically he was told to stand down.
We know that police failed to investigate in the aftermath and then -- after authorities invoked Florida's 7-year-old "Stand Your Ground" law -- found no grounds to charge with any crime the man perceived as Martin's stalker.
With so much attention on Zimmerman since the Feb. 26 shooting, you would think his biography was already being written.
But, no. As the news story became viral, Zimmerman holed up in an undisclosed location, reportedly fearing for his life.
The man who fully admits he shot and killed a young man returning home from a convenience store carrying nothing but a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea, has given interviews only to police and lawyers.
What personal facts do we know about George Zimmerman? Not enough at this point, authorities agree. Here are some of the facts we do know:
- Zimmerman is 5-foot-9 and weighs 250 pounds. (Trayvon, whose nickname was Slimm, was 6-foot-3 and weighed 140 pounds.)
- He was licensed to carry a firearm, but it is unclear if he had informed the homeowner association, the gated townhouse community called Retreat at Twin Lakes, that he would be armed as a volunteer.
- The Orlando Sentinel confirms Zimmerman is, or until recently was, an employee at the Maitland office of Digital Risk LLC, a mortgage risk-management firm. His title: "forensic loan review analyst," basically an underwriter. But he has not been at work since the shooting.
- Records show he previously worked for used-car retailer CarMax and at a Lake Mary insurance company.
- Zimmerman was a self-styled, one-man neighborhood watch, says AP. He made nearly 50 calls to police in Sanford over the past eight years.
- Zimmerman worked with police to form a formal neighborhood watch group in his gated community, and acted as the group's liaison to the Sanford PD.
- A 47-page document of Zimmerman's most recent 911 calls, posted online by the city of Sanford, paints a portrait of a man who was obsessed with law-and-order. Most of the calls relate to suburban mundanities (kids jumping fences, suspicious cars), but, according to Business Insider, he appears to have been "particularly concerned about the behavior of young black males."
- In 2008, Zimmerman enrolled in the Seminole County Sheriff's Office citizens' law-enforcement academy, a four-month-long, one-evening-a-week course consisting of a total of 14 hours of classes.
- A friend and colleagues at work describe him as friendly, outgoing, easy to get along with.
- According to The Washington Post, Zimmerman was brought up in Manassas, Va., by a very Catholic ... very religious family -- a family known for its church and community service. As a youngster, he was an altar boy. The paper describes his anglo father, Robert Zimmerman, as "a retired military man who could be strict." It does not mention his mother, who reportedly emigrated from Peru.
- George Zimmerman is said to have a tattoo on his chest of a cross, with the name, Christina.
- A scan of online court records for Orange County, where Zimmerman lives, shows that a man of the same name and age was accused of violent behavior twice in 2005 -- once for resisting arrest and battery of a law enforcement officer, and once for domestic violence. Zimmerman "resisted arrest with violence and battery on an officer" while interfering with the arrest of a friend. And he was accused of domestic violence by an ex-fiancee (Veronica Zuazo), who had filed for a restraining order against him. Zimmerman counterfiled for a restraining order. A judge eventually ordered them both to stay away from each other for at least one year.
- Zimmerman married Shellie Nicole Dean, a licensed cosmetologist, in late 2007. They live in the Retreat at Twin Lakes.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.