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Zimmerman apologizes for shooting, gets $150K bail

By Curt Anderson and Mike Scheider

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:29 p.m. HST, Apr 20, 2012

SANFORD, Fla. >> Telling Trayvon Martin's parents and a national TV audience "I am sorry for the loss of your son," neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman took the witness stand in an extraordinary move Friday during his bail hearing, making his first public comments since fatally shooting the unarmed teenager.

A judge set Zimmerman's bail at $150,000 and his attorney said he could be free in several days. Authorities and attorneys need to work out arrangements to allow Zimmerman to live outside Florida as he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge because of threats made against him and his family.

Zimmerman claims Martin attacked him after he started following the teenager Feb. 26 because he thought the 17-year-old Martin looked suspicious walking around the gated neighborhood. Zimmerman has said he was punched in the nose and his head was slammed against the sidewalk.

Wearing a charcoal suit, white shirt and gray tie — but also shackled and appearing to have on a bulletproof vest — Zimmerman took the witness stand to deliver a short statement to Martin's parents, who were in court.

"I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. I did not know if he was armed or not," Zimmerman said.

By going on the witness stand, Zimmerman opened himself up to a series of questions from a prosecutor who grilled him on whether he made an apology to police on the night of the shooting, and why he waited so long to express remorse to Martin's parents. Zimmerman said he told police after the shooting that he felt sorry for Martin's parents. He also said he didn't say anything to the parents sooner because his attorneys told him not to.

Attorneys for Martin's parents said the apology was disappointing.

"This was the most disingenuous and unfair thing I've seen," said Natalie Jackson, one of the attorneys for Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton. "This was the most unmeaningful apology."

Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set several conditions for Zimmerman's release, which he said would not occur Friday. He did not say exactly when Zimmerman could go free.

Zimmerman cannot have any guns, drink alcohol or use illegal drugs and must observe a curfew between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. Zimmerman surrendered his passport at the start of the hearing.

The lack of an arrest for 44 days spurred protests nationwide in which participants chanted and held signs that said, "Arrest Zimmerman Now!" Anger over a delay in Zimmerman's arrest led to the Sanford police chief stepping down temporarily and the recusal of the prosecutor who normally handles cases out of Sanford, which is in central Florida.

Civil rights leaders said if the black teenager had been white, Zimmerman would have been arrested and charged the night of the shooting. Zimmerman's father is white, and his mother is Hispanic of Peruvian descent.

Earlier, Zimmerman's parents and wife testified by phone at the hearing because of worries about their safety. They said he was not a flight risk or a threat to the community.

"He is absolutely not a violent person," his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, testified.

Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman Sr., said that even when confronted his son was likely to "turn the other cheek." The father also described his son's injuries the morning after Martin was shot.

"His face was swollen quite a bit. He had a protective cover over his nose. His lip was swollen and cut. And there were two vertical gashes on the back of his head," Robert Zimmerman testified.

Zimmerman's mother, Gladys, said her son was "very protective" of vulnerable people such as the homeless and children. She described how he got involved in a mentoring program for children in Orlando, noting that both of the children he mentored were African-American like Martin.

Gladys Zimmerman said she was concerned about her son's safety in that program because he traveled twice a month to a dangerous neighborhood.

"He said, 'Mom, if I don't go, they don't have nobody,'" Gladys Zimmerman said.

Prosecutor Bernardo de la Rionda asked the family members about two incidents. In 2005, George Zimmerman had to take anger management courses after an undercover law enforcement officer accused him of attacking him as he tried to arrest Zimmerman's friend. In another incident, a girlfriend accused Zimmerman of attacking her. No charges were filed.

The hearing provided a few glimpses into the evidence amassed by investigators, and in some cases evidence they do not have.

Dale Gilbreath, an investigator for the state attorney's office, testified that he does not know whether Martin or Zimmerman threw the first punch and that there is no evidence to disprove Zimmerman's contention that he was walking back to his vehicle when confronted by Martin.

Gilbreath also said evidence does not back up parts of Zimmerman's story, such as his claim that Martin was slamming his head against a sidewalk just before he pulled out his handgun and shot the teenager.

"That is not consistent with the evidence we found," said Gilbreath, who did not provide details.

Zimmerman asked to meet with Trayvon Martin's parents before the hearing, but the family's lawyers said this was not the time.

"We believe (the) Zimmerman request is very self-serving, considering the timing of it 50 days later, right before his bond hearing," said Justin R. Campbell — an assistant to attorney Benjamin Crump — in an email Thursday.

Legal experts had earlier predicted Zimmerman would likely be granted bail. Key factors include his ties to the local community and that he doesn't appear to be a flight risk since he turned himself in voluntarily after he was charged last week. He also has never been convicted of a serious crime, which would indicate he doesn't pose a threat to society.

"Although it's not routine for people charged with murder to get bond, they do get bond, and I think there is an excellent argument to be made in his specific case for him to be released on bond," said defense attorney Randy McClean, who practices in Seminole County, about 15 miles northeast of Orlando.

Kim Cannaday, a spokeswoman for the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, said she couldn't comment on what security procedures would be in place for Zimmerman if he is released. The sheriff's office does have the ability to monitor defendants outside the county if a judge requests a GPS monitor be used as a condition of release.


Anderson reported from Miami.

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Changalang wrote:
Hope all these new gun buyers in Hawaii take note of the real consequences.
on April 20,2012 | 07:16AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
On the other hand, perhaps this was an excellent demonstration of how having a gun saved George Z from grievous harm. The trend for gun ownership in Hawaii is skyrocketing as citizens realize they cannot count on timely protection from the cops. In the future I suspect "gun control" will mean using two hands and a proper stance.
on April 20,2012 | 08:37AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
No.. having a gun allowed this "wanna be cop" to commit a crime that otherwise would not have happened. He should have let the police do their job as he was not under any immediate threat from this kid. Instead, he followed him and shot him when the kid had the nerve to confront him and question why he was being followed.
on April 20,2012 | 05:44PM
LanaUlulani wrote:

Actually in the State of Florida applicants who apply for a Concealed Weapons Permit must pass a background check AND take a class. In addition in CWP classes they teach you to incapacitate FIRST and that IF you shoot at someone's chest... you WILL kill.

ZImmerman stereotyped an unarmed child. Zimmerman's stereotyping caused a DEATH of an innocent child. Please refrain from stereotyping law-abiding gun owners based on ONE person's actions. Zimmerman and ONLY Zimmerman is the one who shot AN UNARMED CHILD in his chest thus acting as jury, judge, and executioner. The rest of us DID NOT DO THAT TO THE UNARMED CHILD nor would we EVER shoot at an unarmed child's CHEST like how Zimmerman did !

Lastly INNOCENT law-abiding gun owners should NOT pay for what the GUILTY PEOPLE do. PERIOD !!!

on April 20,2012 | 09:19AM
Toneyuki wrote:
Lot of assuming there Lana. We don't know he was an innocent child or not. Nobody knows the circumstances, and Zimmerman isn't guilty until convicted. But your right about law abiding gun owners should not pay for what others do.
on April 20,2012 | 09:54AM
johncdechon wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on April 20,2012 | 01:07PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Ah... the shoot first and ask questions later approach. Zimmerman knew he was a kid, he told the police dispatcher the person he was following was in his late teens. I predict 25 yrs to life for this wanna be cop.
on April 20,2012 | 05:49PM
aomohoa wrote:
On our neighborhood watch you are not suppose to approach any one suspicious. We are only suppose to call the police. The out come might have been different if those same rules were used.
on April 20,2012 | 07:39AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
or if the idiot hadn't been armed in the first place.
on April 20,2012 | 05:50PM
joyce1 wrote:
He does not look white to me. Nor does he look like a "white hispanic" as the NY Times tried to depict him. He looks like a latino, period. The media jumped on the race bandwagon too early and without knowing all the facts. Let the facts play out before we convict.
on April 20,2012 | 08:53AM
cojef wrote:
You are correct, as this morning on GMA a video taken of Zimmerman shows a very bloodyand gory scalp wound. The phone video record indicate that it was taken approximately 3 minutes after the shooting and background scenery is consistent with that of the location where to shooting took place. That being the case, his statement that he was attacked by Tryron is collaborated, and may be able to use the defense Zimmerman claimed. No one has asked the question, whether Tryon lives in the gated community or not, or why he was walking through this gated community. If, Tryon was tresspassing, Zimmerman as a voluntary watchman has a legittmate right to pusue and ask Tryon his reason for being in the neighborhood. Many more questions abound, and the media, fanned by the J. Jackson and Al Sharpton have turned this tragedy into a racist scandal.
on April 20,2012 | 10:10AM
honopic wrote:
You could at least have the decency to spell the dead boy's name correctly when you post. While you're at it, get your facts straight. Zimmerman is not a policeman or professional security guard, therefore had no "legitimate right" to pursue or confront Trayvon Martin. He was obligated to phone police if suspicious of any stranger's reason for being there, regardless of his skin color. If this is a "racist scandal" remember that racism runs both ways.
on April 20,2012 | 10:44AM
cojef wrote:
The press and some National Legislators (hoodie comments) , plus other black community leaders made the incident into a racist scandal. I was merely expressing an opinion as to what has transpired up to the present. Remenber the rhetoric thus far has been about a black child being murdered by a white and the white police force freeing or releasing the suspect. Simply, white against black. Excuse me for I misspelling his name. Are you satisfied?
on April 20,2012 | 12:06PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Following is not pursuing or confronting. And I agree racism runs both ways. It's just that Al and Jesse only start bellowing when only one of those ways is suspected.
on April 20,2012 | 01:57PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Zimmerman was following this kid who was walking thru an unfamiliar neighborhood. It's likely the kid was worried for his own safety after seeing a hispanic guy follow him. I wouldn't be surprised if the kid did indeed strike first under these circumstances, he thought he was in trouble.... and he was right.
on April 20,2012 | 05:33PM
Graham wrote:
I agree. Where are the healines and outrage regarding the killing of the White woman by a Black nurse in Texas and the kidnapping of the dead womans' child???
on April 20,2012 | 10:11AM
nigelUV001 wrote:
This guy Zimmerman appears to be stand up guy. He opened himself up by taking the stand. He took a life even though he was in some sort of altercation, and apoligized and even tried to reach out to Trayvon's parents. He is alive and the kid is not, but he is making an effort. That is to me a sign of remorse. Hate and revenge will eat you up physically and emotionaly, but forgiveness and understanding are positive forces that will impact your life and can heal and create sense out of the senseless.
on April 20,2012 | 09:33AM
Poipounder808 wrote:
His apology was orchestrated by his lawyers.
on April 20,2012 | 11:30AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
I guess you don't have any children do you? This "stand up guy" is going to end up in jail. The prosecutor wouldn't have skipped the grand jury and charged him directly if the evidence was not in their favor.
on April 20,2012 | 05:37PM
cojef wrote:
My reply did not pass muster.
on April 20,2012 | 12:06PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
or if he hadn't been armed in the first place, no one but police should be carrying a gun in public.
on April 20,2012 | 05:54PM
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