George Zimmerman, the man acquitted in the 2012 shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, blamed President Obama for inflaming racial tensions after the 17-year-old’s death, saying in a videotaped statement that Obama “overstretched, overreached, even broke the law” by allowing the Justice Department to pursue a civil rights investigation of him.
Zimmerman also criticized Obama’s public response to the shooting, in which he said a month after the shooting, “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” and for the president’s holding a ceremony marking the anniversary of Martin’s death with the boy’s parents.
“For him to make incendiary comments as he did and direct the Department of Justice to pursue a baseless prosecution, he by far overstretched, overreached, even broke the law in certain aspects to where you have an innocent American being prosecuted by the federal government which should never happen,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman has said that he was acting in self-defense when he killed Martin during a Feb. 26, 2012 altercation in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.
His accusations came in a question-and-answer session with his lawyer. Zimmerman said he finally felt free to speak his mind now that the Justice Department has declined to file federal civil rights charges against him. That decision, announced that decision Feb. 24, “was just the beginning of a journey, my personal journey, to correct the wrongs that the federal government did,” Zimmerman said in the video, released Monday.
Zimmerman said the government should have investigated potential violations of his civil rights, including death threats he said were made against him and his family.
Even so, Zimmerman said, he was satisfied with the outcome.
Asked if he wished his confrontation with Martin had turned out differently, Zimmerman suggested that he did not. “Had I had a fraction of the thought that I could have done something differently, acted differently so that both of us who survived, then I would have heavier weight on my shoulders,” Zimmerman said. “That sense in the back of my mind but in all fairness you cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving.”
Zimmerman filed a defamation suit against NBC News in 2012. A judge dismissed that claim last year, and Zimmerman has appealed.