Earlier this week, I wrote a controversial column in which I suggested more Americans should “live like George Zimmerman,” the Sanford, Fla., man now facing second-degree murder charges for defending himself and his neighbors, who had been under siege from break-ins, home invasions and other attacks from criminals in the preceding weeks and months.
Some suggested my defense of Zimmerman was over the top in that his actions led to the tragic death of teenager Trayvon Martin.
But today, following the most comprehensive investigative report on Zimmerman’s history, his character and events leading up to the shooting of Martin, I feel more justified and convinced my gut instincts were right.
George Zimmerman has been vilified by race hustlers, his life has been threatened, and he is unlikely ever to receive a fair trial as a result of the hysterical media circus, a virtual high-tech lynching, that ensued weeks after the Feb. 26 attack on him and his defense of himself.
In 2009, a pit bull began menacing George and his wife, Shellie. He was thinking about getting pepper spray to defend himself and others from the loose dog. But, according to reports obtained by the Reuters investigation, an animal control officer suggested he get a gun.
That November, the Zimmermans completed firearms training and received concealed-carry permits.
By 2011, Zimmerman’s attention had shifted from the loose pit bull to a wave of robberies, break-in and home invasions plaguing his neighborhood.
Zimmerman, we learn, was a 28-year-old insurance-fraud investigator who came from a deeply observant Catholic family who liked helping the less fortunate. He was raised in a racially integrated home with not only Hispanic roots, but also black family members as well.
He was a criminal-justice student who aspired to become a judge. His father, a military veteran, became a magistrate in Virginia after his service. George was an altar boy who grew up bilingual and served as a translator at his school for parents who didn’t speak English.
In 2004, he opened an insurance office with a black friend. It later went bankrupt.
In 2007, he married Shellie Dean and the couple rented a townhouse in the Retreat at Twin Lakes, while he worked several jobs and attended school at night, pursuing a degree in criminal justice.
On Feb. 26, the night Trayvon Martin was shot, Zimmerman was nearing completion of his final credits on his degree.
On March 22, nearly a month after the shooting incident, facing threats on his life and calls for lynching, Seminole State College withdrew his enrollment, explaining that the institution feared for his life and the life of other students.
What led to the confrontation with Trayvon Martin?
By the summer of 2011, Twin Lakes, a community that was 50 percent white and the balance black and Hispanic, was under siege from criminals. At least eight burglaries were reported in the 14 months leading up to the Martin incident. In July, a teenager walked up to Zimmerman’s home and stole a bicycle. A month later, there was a home invasion at a neighbor’s house. Home with her infant son, Olivia Bertalan called 911. Police arrived just as the burglars were disconnecting the television. The perpetrators fled.
After police left, Zimmernan visited Bertalan, gave her his contact numbers and invited her to visit his wife if she ever felt in danger again. He returned later and gave her a stronger lock to bolster the sliding door used to gain entry into the home.
In September, a group of neighbors approached Zimmerman to lead a new neighborhood watch program. He agreed. By that time Bertalan had moved out of the neighborhood in fear.
He visited other neighbors and gave them his contact information should they ever feel threatened.
But the break-ins and vandalism in the neighborhood continued.
On Feb. 2, Zimmerman placed a call to the police reporting a man peering into the windows of a neighbor’s empty home. By the time police came, the suspect had fled.
On Feb. 6, the home of another resident was burglarized. A new laptop and gold jewelry were stolen. Later police found the laptop in the backpack of 18-year-old Emmanuel Burgess.
Later that month, Zimmerman spotted Trayvon Martin in the neighborhood, acting suspiciously.
“We’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy,” Zimmerman told the dispatcher.
Contrary to previous reports, the dispatcher did not order Zimmerman not to follow the suspect.
Here’s how that transcript reads:
Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Dispatcher: “OK. We don’t need you to do that.”
But Zimmerman had seen that police response was not quick enough to prevent crimes from taking place in his neighborhood, and he was taking no chances this time.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Yes, it’s a tragedy that Trayvon Martin was killed. But George Zimmerman is not to blame. In fact, he should receive an award for good citizenship. We need more men in America taking responsibility for their families and neighbors the way Zimmerman did.
That would prevent more tragedies like the Trayvon Martin case – not increase them.