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Maybe George Zimmerman did act in self-defense when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, whose death Feb. 26 in Sanford, Florida, has been the focus of a media and political circus that even included Barack Obama weighing in this week.

An eyewitness to the incident told police Martin was beating Zimmerman before he shot him.

Zimmerman had called 911 to report the suspicious activities of a youth in his neighborhood, telling the dispatcher that he was following Martin.

On the recording of another 911 call, repeated cries of “help” can be heard before the gunshot.

The witness, identified only as John, says those cries were made by Zimmerman who was on the ground being beaten by Martin.

“The guy on the bottom who had a red sweater on was yelling to me: ‘help, help … and I told him to stop and I was calling 911,” he said.

Martin was wearing a gray hoodie, while Zimmerman was wearing red.

“When I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point,” John said.

Zimmerman claimed the shooting was self-defense. Zimmerman said he was going back to his SUV when he was attacked by the teen. Sanford police say Zimmerman was bloody in his face and head, and the back of his shirt was wet and had grass stains, indicating a struggle took place before the shooting.

Meanwhile, the attack has been portrayed by most media outlets as a racist, vigilante-style assault by Zimmerman – a half-Hispanic, half-white, self-style neighborhood crime-watch captain – on an innocent role-model black teen-ager carrying only a cell phone and some Skittles.

Obama weighed in on the shooting Friday, saying the incident requires all Americans to “do some soul searching.”

“When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids,” he said. “I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative to investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together – federal, state and local – to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened. But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin: If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are gonna take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”

GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich called those remarks “disgraceful” and divisive.

“What the president said in a sense is disgraceful,” he said. “It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background. Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be OK because it didn’t look like him?”

He added that it’s “just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot. It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian American of if he’d been a Native American. At some point we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.”

The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation of the incident. There have been threats on the life of the Sanford police chief. The Black Panthers have offered a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman’s “capture”. Most media accounts of the story suggest Martin was walking down the street minding his own business when he was shot without provocation by Zimmerman.

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