SANFORD, Fla. - Local 6's Kala Rama sat down one-on-one with Joe Oliver, friend of neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman, and Oliver said he thinks his friend is innocent.
Read the transcribed interview below:
Local 6: "What we are looking for here is for you to explain your relationship with George Zimmerman."
Oliver: "George is a friend of the family, his mother in law is close friend of my wife's."
Local 6: "Someone printed that your wife is his mother in law. That's clearly wrong?"
Oliver: "That's a perfect example of all the misinformation that is out there. Based upon his 2005 arrest, a mug shot says he weights 250 pounds and that doesn't say he is 5 feet, 8 inches and 170 pounds.
Oliver: "G is not a large man, he was back then, but not now."
Local 6: "You seem like you are defensive of his appearance."
Oliver: "It's not his appearance it is the information and the accuracy of everything that we have heard from the very beginning characterizing him as white, his size his weight."
Local 6: What ethnicity is he?
Oliver: Peruvian decent and a multicultural background
Local 6: How many years have you known him for?
Oliver: "Since he started dating his wife, about 6 years."
Local 6: So many people are wondering why you are so strongly defending him and why now, a month after the shooting?
Oliver: "I have been trying to get in touch with George from the very beginning. I have been in TV for over 20 years, I knew what he was about to deal with. I had gotten stories through his mother in law about what had happened and what he was dealing with. Plus I have known George for so long and I know what kind of a man he is, he is a good man. That's why he was the watch captain, he cares about his community. The reason why he called in that night, on his way home from the grocery store is because his neighborhood had gone through a number of burglaries, It was a high crime area."
Local 6: Is it true that he is a self imposed watch captain?
Oliver: "Not to my knowledge because he had a co- captain. I didn't come out in George's defense until I spoke with him and got his blessing to speak on his behalf and until I talked to him personally to know in my heart that George saved his own life that night."
Local 6: Why didn't George give you his blessing, why hasn't George spoken out?
Oliver: "George hasn't spoken out because he was told not to."
Local 6: Immediately after the shooting he was told not to speak?
Oliver: "I am not sure when he was told not to talk about it, on top of that, I don't think he wasn't capable of talking about it. He cried for days afterwards, I don't think he is capable now of talking about it."
Local 6: I talked with Sanford PD who said Mr. Zimmerman didn't appear to be emotional. What is your response to that?
Oliver: "He has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress syndrome. He has been diagnosed with depression because of the shooting.
Local 6: Is he the type of guy that would normally carry a gun?
Oliver: "I didn't know he had a gun, I'm stunned that he had a gun to be quite frank."
Local 6: When you heard this happened and George Zimmerman is involved what went through your mind?
Oliver: "No, not George. Please not George. That's what went through my mind."
Local 6: "I can see that you are getting emotional so describe him for people that think he's this gun-toting villain, not vigilante, people think he's a villain."
Oliver: "I understand because they don't know George Zimmerman. I'd be with them if I didn't know George Zimmerman."
Local 6: So describe him, Can you paint us a picture of who this guy was?
Oliver: "He is a very good man. He is a very good man who thought he was doing the right thing and it turned out horribly wrong. We have heard stories of him mentoring black children of a single mother. I learned he and his wife, at church they would take gift cards for food for people who needed it."
Local 6: Then why was he so suspicious of this young man walking through his neighborhood? He wasn't peeping through windows, or looking into car windows, right?
Oliver: I cant go into details of why George made that call. I can tell you that his neighborhood had been victimized bby a number of burglaries and he saw someone that he didn't recognize acting suspiciously. We are going to have to wait until the grand jury or for another police leak."
Local 6: Do you know what he was doing?
Oliver: "Yes I do."
Local 6: And you won't say because, why?
Oliver: "Because this is George's life and he has been instructed not to talk. I did not, I volunteered for this, I was seeking George, and I didn't find him until he realized how big this was getting and found his attorney."
Local 6: Is he scared for his life?
Oliver: "Of course he is, he is in hiding. He has changed his number. I cant reach him, but I can reach him, but his wife, her mother doesn't know how to get in touch with him, I don't know where he is at. you know, yea he is scared.
Local 6: You know how big this has gotten and you know what people think of him, why would you want to associate with that and defend his actions when people think they are so awful.
Oliver: "Two reasons, I do know George Zimmerman, and if I didn't know him I would agree with everyone would be out there with them because I am a black male and I have a son who is 18 and I have discussed with him the perils of being black in this country. But I know George Zimmerman and I know what happened between he and Trayvon Martin is only that match that started this firestorm across the country."
Local 6: Why would George go after him?
Oliver: "He saw a suspicious individual who was keeping an eye out so he could let the police know that last place that they saw him, that's one, that's why he would. Go back and take a look at the 911 tape and the dispatcher says 'are you following him' and he says 'Yeah' and the dispatcher says 'We don't need you to do that.' Most of the time that is where it stops but George responds 'OK.'"
Local 6: So do you believe he stopped?
Oliver: "I believe he was heading back to his vehicle when Trayvon came up to him."
Local 6: Can you describe the attack?
Oliver: "I can say how it was described in the paper was how it was described to me."
Local 6: So his head was bashed in to the sidewalk numerous times and he was decked in the face?
Oliver: It started with a punch to the face that knocked him down. Take into consideration that this man is 6 feet, 2 inches hitting down on him.
Local 6: The way Sanford PD describes it is that he was attacked from behind as he had turned around and walked to his car.
Oliver: "There was a conversation between the two that started with Trayvon asking if he had a problem and when Geroge responded no, Trayvon responded with a punch saying you do now. What I have talked to George about is what I needed to know in order to put myself in this position. I wish I could say everything George told me but that is part of the investigation that is why we are heading to a grand jury."
Local 6: Do you think George will be indicted?
Oliver: "Because of all this craziness I have no idea."
Local 6: But with what you know, do you think he deserves to have charges filed against him?
Oliver: "According to the laws of Florida, no."
Local 6: Do you believe he did anything wrong
Oliver: "I believe he saved his own life."
Local 6: How bad were his injuries that night?
Oliver: "We are efforting a cell phone picture that was taken by an officer on scene that shows the extent of his injuries before he was cleaned up and other pictures were taken afterwards he didn't know until the next day his nose was broken and he had gashes on the back of his head. He was treated on scene. I have not seen him so I cant say how bad it is but we do know his nose is broken and that he has gashes to the back of his head."
Local 6: When you talk to him now, what are your conversations like?
Oliver: "I only talk to him briefly. The conversations I have had with him are to validate why I need to be here. And that is the best I can say."
Local 6: Just so people can get a better picture of who you are, they want to know who this guy is, you almost have a target on your back.
Oliver: "I know I have a target on my back and I am going out on a limb because we have two issues. My friend George who almost lost his life, now there are millions who don't know how much he actually has lost his life and still want to see him behind bars. The other reason is I am a black male and it sparked a discussion that needs to be had."
Local 6: What if people were saying that you are benefiting from this.
Oliver: "Yeah, here is how I am going to benefit because this conversation is going to continue. It sparked the conversation that will hopefully one day be to race not being an issue. I have a son who is 18 and I want it to be a better country for him. I have gotten a lot of support from my friends and my wife didn't want me to do this because of fear but the best text that I got was from my son ... that said, dad I am proud of you."
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