George Zimmerman grants first TV interview

Neighborhood watch leader revives first donation website

NEW YORK - George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch leader charged with murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, gave his first TV interview on Wednesday.

Zimmerman's first interview aired on Fox News Channel. Zimmerman sat down with Hannity for about 90 minutes on Wednesday at an undisclosed Seminole County hotel. Zimmerman's attorney and Local 6 legal analyst Mark O'Mara was present during the interview and tells Local 6 it was "a decision made by George to get his story out."

In the interview, Zimmerman said he hadn't had time reflect on the incident until he was in jail in solitary confinement.

"I just think it's a tragic situation. I hope it's the most difficult thing I'll ever go through in my life," said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman said he hasn't been at his home since the night of the shooting.

Zimmerman said he became a neighborhood watchman after a neighbor was home during a break-in.

When asked why he carried a gun, Zimmerman said, "I carried it at all times except for when I went for work."

Zimmerman said he hadn't heard of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law until after the shooting.

Zimmerman said he felt Martin was suspicious because he was walking leisurely in the rain and was cutting in-between houses.

Zimmerman said that when Martin reached for his waistband, he believed the teen was trying to intimidate him.

"The way he was coming back and, I was on the phone, but was certain I could see him saying something to me. His demeanor, his body language was confrontational," said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman said Martin wasn't running but was skipping, despite telling the 911 dispatcher that he was running.

Zimmerman said he used the word "punks" during the 911 call.

When asked about the portion of the 911 call where a dispatcher asked Zimmerman whether he was following Martin, Zimmerman denied following the teen.

"I meant that I was going in the same direction of him to keep an eye on him to tell police where he was going," said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman said after he stopped following Martin, he saw him less than 30 seconds later. Zimmerman said he was never further than 100 feet from his car.

"He asked me what my problem was... I immediately went to grab my phone... and when I reached into my pants pocket, it wasn't there. I looked up and he punched me and broke my nose," said Zimmerman, adding that he forgot he had put his phone in his jacket pocket. "I don't remember if I went immediately to the ground or he pushed me to the ground, but I ended up on the ground."

Zimmerman said Martin then began slamming his head into the sidewalk. Zimmerman said after Martin punched him the first time, he yelled for help. Zimmerman said Martin punched him more than a dozen times.

Zimmerman said during the struggle, Martin was cursing at him and said, "You're going to die tonight."

Zimmerman said after he made his way to the grass, Martin tried to suffocate him by putting his hand over his mouth and nose. Zimmerman said the voice screaming in a neighbor's 911 tape was his.

"He knew that I was talking to the police and I was yelling so that, I believed the police officer was there and that they couldn't find me," said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman said Martin tried to reach for his gun before Zimmerman shot him. He said he didn't believe he hit Martin when he fired.

Zimmerman said police arrived at the scene 15 to 30 seconds after the shooting.

Zimmerman said he doesn't regret getting out of the car to follow Martin or having a gun that night. Later in the interview, Zimmerman said he wished he had done something differently so the incident didn't end in Martin's death.

He also issued a message to the Martin family.

"I would tell them, that again, I'm sorry. I don't have, my wife and I don't have any children... I love my children and they aren't even born yet. I'm sorry that they buried their child. I pray for them daily," said Zimmerman, adding that he'd be open to meeting with them.

"We must worship a different GOD because there is no way that my GOD wanted GZ to murder my teenage son," Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, said in a statement released by the Martin family attorneys.

Zimmerman called the media coverage surreal.

"I don't like, they've rushed to judgment the way they have. Any time they have a story that's remotely positive, they interpret it negatively," said Zimmerman.

O'Mara said there were no ground rules for the questions asked, but he did jump in and not let his client answer the question about the bond hearing where Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, allegedly lied about their finances. 

Zimmerman also mentions in the interview he has reopened, which has a link to the one legal defense fund account, O'Mara said. On the website is a note, which appears to be from Zimmerman himself, signing it "Your friend, George."

On the site, Zimmerman writes, "Please notice that I do not refer to this website as my website, rather I think of it as our website. As I stated in our previous website, I am attempting to show my supporters that they are not alone, during the first 12 hours of my previous website launch, I received over 20,000 emails filled with words of support and encouragement."

Zimmerman writes his website will "be the proper venue for George to represent himself to the public," and provide a "clear picture of who George is, what his family is like and where he comes from."

The site also states it will take over soliciting money for Zimmerman and reporting on the status of the legal defense fund.

Zimmerman decided to give Hannity the interview because Zimmerman felt Hannity treated him fairly when they spoke in April, according to O'Mara. Zimmerman said Hannity never offered to pay his legal bills nor was he paid for Wednesday's interview.

In evidence released earlier this week, a woman, identified only as Witness 9 by prosecutors, claims Zimmerman molested her over a number of years starting when they were children.

"I don't know they were going to take the time and resources to focus on that," said O'Mara about Witness 9.

Witness 9 also said Zimmerman and his family had racist views.

"I think that it's actually fortunate the FBI did get involved to investigate a crime... They cleared me of any racial profiling, racial wrongdoing," said Zimmerman. "The only person who they'd found that said I was remotely racist, bit ironic that one and only person they could find also happens to be the person who claims I'm deviant."

O'Mara said the "Stand Your Ground" law is applicable to the case.

Zimmerman is also seeking a new judge in his case, claiming that Judge Kenneth Lester showed bias against him in a recent ruling after a bond hearing.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

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