George Zimmerman was in the news again recently when the famous Floridian “was involved in a shooting.” Which he was – in the same sense that Abraham Lincoln and JFK were involved in shootings. Zimmerman was the subject of an assassination attempt. Once again, the Florida native’s experiences offered a lesson to those of us who carry firearms: a defensive gun use can be a life-changing event that reverberates for one’s entire life, for both good and ill. Given Zimmernan’s re-emergence and the benefit of hindsight, here’s another look at that now famous but scandalously misinterpreted defensive gun use . . .
George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain much respected by the Sanford, FL police Neighborhood Watch coordinator, was on his way to buy groceries one rainy night when he saw Trayvon Martin, who he did not know or recognize, acting suspiciously. Martin appeared to be drugged and casing homes and did nothing to get out of the rain. He was standing on the grass–not the sidewalk or street–in front of a home that had recently been burglarized in a neighborhood plagued by burglaries and thefts committed almost entirely by young black men.
Zimmerman did not approach Martin or speak with him. Zimmerman immediately called the police and remained in his vehicle, keeping his distance. After a short time, Martin spotted Zimmerman, approached, circled his vehicle, and sprinted away. The police dispatcher told Zimmerman officers were on the way. He also instructed Zimmerman to continue telling him what Martin was doing.
Zimmerman left his vehicle and trotted in the same direction as Martin. Within seconds, he realized Martin was gone, and told the dispatcher. Zimmerman continued a short distance, but soon turned around. He agreed with the dispatcher to have the police meet him at his parked vehicle.
All of this took about four minutes. During that four minutes, all Martin needed to do to be safely indoors, never identified or seen again by Zimmerman or the police, was to run less than 100 yards–a distance easily covered in 20 seconds. Instead, he chose to wait and ambush Zimmerman, a complete stranger. As Zimmerman was walking back to his vehicle, Martin came out of the darkness, verbally accosted Zimmerman and sucker-punched him in the nose, breaking it and knocking him to the ground.
Having incapacitated Zimmerman, Martin chose not to leave, but straddled him, and as a credible eyewitness testified, rained blows down on Zimmerman, MMA “ground and pound” style. He also repeatedly beat Zimmerman’s head against a sidewalk. Zimmerman sustained precisely the injuries to be expected in such an assault.
Helpless, being mercilessly beaten, afraid of losing consciousness and being killed, Zimmerman drew his handgun and fired a single round. It struck Martin in the heart.
This was an unremarkable case of self-defense like many incidents across America. In virtually all such cases, no charges are filed. The local news carries the story. Only those intimately involved are ever aware it happened. But even in those incidents, an honest citizen forced to defend his or her life may never escape the consequences. The Zimmerman case was a perfect storm of perverse abuses of the system and the law, abuses that can happen to anyone.
The Rule of Law vs. Social Justice
The police did a complete and competent investigation. Zimmerman cooperated fully. The police found no grounds for charges; all of the evidence supported Zimmerman’s account. The local prosecutor, correctly applying the law, agreed. But that was the wrong outcome for social justice advocates, who saw in the case a considerable political and financial payday.
Shooting the “Wrong Person”
The racial grievance industry became involved. The media followed their lead, only too glad to help invent and sustain a false social justice narrative.
Martin was 17 and black, taller and more fit than Zimmerman. Martin was a heavy drug user, burglar, wannabe thug, and wannabe street fighter who bragged on social media about his drug use and beating people, breaking their noses and making them bleed. When he attacked Zimmerman, Martin had THC in his bloodstream. He was carrying two of the three necessary ingredients for an illicit drug concoction–“Lean” or “Purple Drank”–a concoction he’d mentioned on social media.
By means of a media-distributed photo of Martin at 12, the Florida teen was transformed into a slight, cherubic, smiling infant, who had a bright, scholarly future. In truth, Martin was living at his father’s girlfriend’s home because he was serving a ten-day school suspension–not his first.
The media quickly turned Zimmerman into a huge, hulking cop wannabe who maliciously hunted down and killed the angelic Martin who was only hurrying home with food for his brother. Because the narrative required a black boy be killed by a white adult, Zimmerman, who identifies as Hispanic, was media-branded an entirely new race. He became a “white Hispanic.”
Inflaming public opinion, CNN claimed Zimmerman called Martin a “f***ing coon.” The network was forced to reluctantly retract the assertion when their own audio experts determined that “coon” was actually “cold.” NBC made Zimmerman seem racist by editing audio of his police call. They too had to retract their story and fire a number of employees.
As the case moved slowly to trial, the media continued to release any and everything that might be harmful to Zimmerman. For the most part, they suppressed any helpful information. When reporting on applicable laws, particularly Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, they stuck to the narrative rather than truth or fact. To this day, millions believe Zimmerman somehow violated the SYG law, even though it had no bearing on the case.
The first judge in the case displayed such blatant bias toward Zimmerman he was forced off the case. The second judge was equally biased, but more cautious. Even so, the defense was able to get a major ruling overturned. She made many strange rulings that unlawfully hampered the defense; it’s likely any conviction would have been overturned on appeal.
The Backward Trial:
The trial was a bizarre spectacle. Almost all of the prosecution’s witnesses helped the defense, proving that Zimmerman acted in self-defense. Zimmerna’s counsel argued the law, evidence and logic; the prosecution demanded that the jury decide the case on emotion. While there was no evidence to convict Zimmerman, without his skilled lawyers — Don West and Mark O’Mara — Zimmerman might have been convicted.
Life After Acquittal:
Since his acquittal, Zimmerman has lived in hiding, dogged by the media and the constant fear of murderous retribution. Even traffic stops involving Zimmerman made national news. As the recent attempt on his life demonstrates, there will always be people who want the notoriety of killing George Zimmerman.
George Zimmerman defended his life against a vicious, unprovoked criminal assault. He violated no laws. He had no evil intent. He incurred legal bills he will never be able to repay. He was, worldwide, branded a racist murderer. He lost his wife and his job. He was prohibited from finishing his college degree.
Zimmerman’s experience is a cautionary tale. When using deadly force, one never knows if they will shoot the “wrong person” at the wrong place and time. Col. Jeff Cooper (amongst others) said it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by six. That’s indisputable. But it’s also indisputably best to do everything reasonably possible to avoid becoming the next George Zimmerman.
Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.