In his first television interview, George Zimmerman offers an apology to Trayvon Martin's family, but says, looking back, he wouldn't have done anything differently. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reports.
George Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, above, on Feb. 26. He has been charged with second-degree murder.
In his first television interview, George Zimmerman walked through his version of what happened the night he killed Trayvon Martin. He said he does not regret being armed, nor does he regret his actions.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin, an unarmed black teenager, on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The case has become the focus of national media, and ignited an emotional debate over race and gun rights.
The 28-year-old son of a white father and Peruvian mother of Hispanic descent, Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. He says he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin attacked him. He is currently out on bail.
"When I was in jail obviously, in solitary confinement, I had a lot of time to think and reflect," he said. "I just think it’s a tragic situation. I hope it’s the most difficult thing I’ll ever go through in my life."
Zimmerman explained in an exclusive interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity that he was headed to Target that Sunday night for his weekly grocery shopping.
"That's the last time I've been home," he said.
Zimmerman said that he was motivated to become involved in the safety of his community after a robbery in his community. Burglars broke into the home of a young woman with a 9-month-old baby -- the woman then barricaded herself in an upstairs bedroom, Zimmerman said. His wife saw the robbers run through their backyard.
"Even though my wife wasn't certain what happened, that was enough to scare her and shake her up," he said. "I promised her I would do what I could to keep her safe."
Trayvon Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, react to George Zimmerman's first television interview, telling TODAY's Matt Lauer that they wish Trayvon Martin could tell his side of the story.
On Feb. 26, Zimmerman said that he saw a young man – later identified as Martin -- acting suspiciously when he first saw him. It was raining, and Martin, he said, was cutting between houses.
“He was walking very leisurely for the weather,” Zimmerman said. “It didn’t look like he was a resident.”
Nor, he said, did Martin look like “a fitness fanatic that would train in the rain.”
In fact, Martin was visiting his father at his father’s girlfriend home. He was returning from the corner store, where he had purchased Skittles and a can of AriZona watermelon drink.
At the time, Zimmerman told the police dispatcher by phone that Martin was running away from him. But in Wednesday night’s interview, he said that Martin was “skipping, going away quickly. He wasn’t running out of fear.”
Zimmerman said Martin asked him what his problem was. Zimmerman said he replied, “No, I don’t have a problem.”
Zimmerman said Martin delivered a single punch to his nose, breaking it.
“I don’t remember if I went immediately to the ground, or if he pushed me,” Zimmerman continued.
“He was straddled on me with his full weight and I would try and sit up and push myself down, and whenever I would sit up that’s when he would take the opportunity to slam my head back down and punch me in the head and continue to hit my nose,” Zimmerman said.
He said Martin was cursing at him, telling him to shut up and that he was going to kill him.
He said he felt Martin’s hand go down his chest, toward his holster.
“It just happened so quickly,” Zimmerman said. But, he said, “I didn’t think I hit him.”
When Hannity asked if Zimmerman had any regrets, he replied, “No, sir.”
"Do you regret that you had a gun that night?" Hannity asked.
"No sir," Zimmerman replied.
“I feel it was all God’s plan,” he said.
In response to the interview, Trayvon Martin's family issued a statement through their attorney.
"George Zimmerman said that he does not regret getting out of his vehicle, he does not regret following Trayvon, in fact he does not regret anything he did that night. He wouldn't do anything different and he concluded it was God's plan," the statement said.
"We must worship a different God because there is no way that MY God would have wanted George Zimmerman to KILL my teenage son," Tracy Martin added.
Hannity asked Zimmerman about the first time the two spoke by phone. Zimmerman at the time was armed and alone in a hotel room, Hannity said, and didn’t have an attorney.
“Where were you mentally then? When I was talking to you, I was concerned,” Hannity said.
“So was I,” Zimmerman said. “I was talking daily to one state police officer that had legitimate concerns for my safety. My wife, I asked her to stay in Florida. I was out of state.”
“I’m not a racist and I’m not a murderer,” Zimmerman said.
He also again apologized to Trayvon Martin’s parents.
“I would tell them that again, I’m sorry," Zimmerman said. "I don’t have -- my wife and I don’t have any children. I have nephews that I love more than life. I love them more than myself. And I know when they were born, it was a different, unique bond and love that I have with them. And I love my children even though they aren’t born yet. And I am sorry that they buried their child. I can’t imagine what it must feel like. And I pray for them daily.”
Phyllis Kotey, a legal expert who has followed the case, said there were several possible strategic reasons why Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, would allow his client to appear on national television.
"Clearly they are trying to humanize (Zimmerman) some more and give his story some traction," said Kotey, a former judge and prosecutor who now teaches at Florida International University College of Law.
She noted that in a television appearance, Zimmerman can speak without the risk of cross-examination by the prosecution.
"Every time he does something public like this, he has an opportunity to get information to the potential jurors without having to take the stand," Kotey said.
The interview was taped on Wednesday morning and broadcast later Wednesday evening. Fox News said no payment was made for the interview.
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