By Jeff Weiner and Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel
ORLANDO, Fla. — In a new video posted online by his divorce attorneys, George Zimmerman calls himself a family man and discusses his portrayal in the media and his hope that people will come to think about him “the way I do with everyone else.”
“I would love for people just to have a clean slate, just no prejudice, just think of me as me the person, not who I’ve been portrayed as by the media, by the state, by the government, whomever it may be,” he says.
The video was posted on the website of the Ayo & Iken firm, which is representing Zimmerman. His wife, Shellie Zimmerman, 26, filed for divorce Sept. 5.
Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin at trial last year, does not directly comment on the divorce. Much of what he does discuss has previously been reported:
- He addresses his heritage: His father is an American-born man of German descent, who retired from the U.S. Army and later served as a magistrate in Virginia. His mother is Peruvian and a former deputy clerk of court, also in Virginia. His great grandfather was Afro-Peruvian. To me, I’m an American and I think that’s what an American is, is a melting pot of different ethnicities,” he says.
- Zimmerman talks about handing out fliers after a Sanford police lieutenant’s son was caught on video sucker-punching Sherman Ware, an African-American man. Zimmerman says that, after his arrest in Trayvon’s death, he was thanked for his efforts by a jail chaplain, who gave him socks. “I never expected that the efforts I made for Mr. Ware would ever come back and benefit me in any way,” he says.
- He talks about volunteering, with his wife, to mentor African-American siblings. Zimmerman describes playing basketball and visiting the science center with his mentee, and taking the youth to see Dwight Howard, the former Orlando Magic star. The children he met through mentoring “still remember me for all of the good things that we were able to do together,” Zimmerman says, adding: “A lot of kids ask me if I could be their mentor still and that really strikes a chord with me.”
- He says the media has not portrayed him accurately: “Absolutely not, and I think that people, once they meet me face to face … typically, 99 percent of the time, they’ll tell me, ‘You’re nothing like the media portrayed,” Zimmerman says.
- Zimmerman describes having to “look over my shoulder” whenever he’s in public, “always concerned for others around me.” He says he’s often recognized when he’s out of the house. “It’s difficult and it’s something that I didn’t ask for, but it’s been placed on me, and so I have to try my best to adapt to it,” he says in the interview.
- He also says he wants to eventually finish his college education and become a civil rights or defense attorney. “On a grand scale, I would like to make enough of an impact to change the judicial system to guarantee that what happened to me never happens again to anybody,” Zimmerman says.
Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon, a black 17-year-old from Miami Gardens, Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford. He wasn’t immediately arrested by police, sparking international outrage and debate about racial profiling and self-defense laws.
Zimmerman was later charged, but was acquitted at trial. He says he fired in self-defense after Trayvon attacked him. Prosecutors alleged he profiled the teen as a criminal, then pursued, confronted and killed him.
Since his acquittal, Zimmerman has rarely been out of the media spotlight, for everything from traffic stops, to domestic incidents and, most recently, an appearance at a local gun show.
Near the beginning of the video, Zimmerman is asked: Who is George Zimmerman?
“That’s a great question,” he replies. “I’m figuring that out every day. I try and be a good person, a faithful person, a family man. But I do realize that I’ve been through a lot in life, and for better or for worse everything I do is hyper analyzed whether it’s good or bad.”