After a long media silence the family of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s now-infamous killer, have opened up about what it’s like being the family of “the most hated free man in America,” according to a new article from GQ magazine.
Among the potentially shocking revelations in the piece, is his father Bob's admission that "if FBI agents come and kick in his door, he's probably gonna shoot a few of them." There is an ongoing federal investigation into George Zimmerman's case but NBC News has reported that federal charges against Zimmerman are unlikely.
In a lengthy article, which appears in the October edition of GQ, Zimmerman’s family talks of life as they know it. It’s a life filled with paranoia, fear and the feeling that they are the true victims of what they describe as “the incident.”
The so-called "incident" refers to the night back in February 2012 when Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer shot the unarmed teen in Sanford, Florida. Since that night their lives have been upended, even more so since Zimmerman’s acquittal on second-degree murder charges last summer.
Zimmerman’s parents, Gladys and Bob, and his younger brother Robert who serves as the family spokesman, tell GQ that their lives have been on an endless loop of money problems, safe house re-locations and struggles to at once buffer themselves from their newfound notoriety while also trying to capitalize from it.
Nearly all of the Zimmermans, including a sister who isn’t quoted in the article, are currently unemployed or underemployed, subsisting off of the parent’s meager retirement income. The Zimmermans say George owes millions in legal fees and that the family has spent about $35,000 on hotel rooms, living expenses and rent for a secret house they’ve rented.
But the biggest debt they say they are paying is to the public, whom they fear will come after one of them as payback for Martin’s killing, which sparked outrage particularly among many African-Americans who believe Zimmerman murdered Martin in cold blood.
"I am sure there are people, you know, some young kid that has nothing going for him, but he's able to get a pistol, wants to make a name for himself. 'Maybe I'll kill one of the Zimmermans. Maybe George, maybe one of his family members. I'll be famous.' You know? That happens," Bob Zimmerman said in the piece. "And that's what worries me."
Since his acquittal last summer Zimmerman has had several run-ins with the law and nearly every incident has involved guns or allegations of violence. Just weeks after the acquittal Zimmerman’s ex-wife, Shellie Zimmerman, called 911 during a fight and reported that he punched her father in the face and threatened both of them with a gun.
A couple months later George Zimmerman hooked up with a new woman, who later called 911 reporting that Zimmerman pointed a shotgun at her.
Charges were dropped in both cases. But combined with a number of other incidents involving the police, including one just last month in which Zimmerman was questioned by police in a road rage incident in which a driver said Zimmerman threatened to shoot him, the lore of Zimmerman as something of a bogeyman continues to grow.
Robert Zimmerman told GQ that he believes his brother George is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He’s developed a short fuse and is prone to getting defensive, yelling and interrupting during conversations.
The article describes Zimmerman’s Peruvian mother as “darker-skinned than she appeared on TV during the trial, beautiful and indigenously featured” who is fierce and brassy and speaks with a thick accent:
It infuriates her that George is often described as a white man, which she considers an affront to her Peruvian heritage. She can be startlingly callous about Trayvon Martin's family, about the help they've received, financial and otherwise, which she feels her family has been unfairly denied. It often seems as if she believes the Zimmermans have suffered equally, as if they have lost a son as well.
Bob Zimmerman is described as being more measured and sorrowful about “the incident” but just as “tin-eared regarding the Martins”:
Shortly after the incident, he heard that Trayvon was chronically truant in high school. "So I thought, well, maybe at some point we can get with his parents," he told me, "and have some kind of thing where we reward kids that improve their attendance."
One of the more ironic revelations in the piece is the seemingly omnipresence of guns in the family.
There are at least 10 guns between Zimmerman, his parents, brother and his sister Grace and her fiancé, according to GQ. When news of the killing began to make headlines in 2012, it was grace who screamed out, “We need to get guns!” Robert Zimmerman says he has slept with his.
Indeed, there seemed cause for concern. The Internet was buzzing with threats on the Zimmermans when the Trayvon Martin case drew national headlines. The New Black Panther had essentially put out a $10,000 bounty on George’s head. So the family began crafting counter-assault plans. They watched movies to prepare for an attack and how to live like secret agents, down to color coded threat assessments.
“Code blue: Law enforcement at the door. Code brown: Draw your weapons. Code black: Come out guns blazing,” GQ reports.
But guns weren’t always embraced by the family.
Bob Zimmerman, the family patriarch, grew up with a violent drunk of a father who used to beat him. He was a ward of the state of California by 14 and spent the next decade behind bars and homeless, according to the GQ article. Bob Zimmerman later joined the army and after his career was over kept a firearm. He warned his children against them.
"If we ever touched or handled a gun," Robert Zimmerman was quoted as saying, "Dad was gonna beat the sh-t out of us. Period. He made it absolutely clear, like bare bottoms, you're gonna get the sh-t beaten out of you. He was always saying, 'Guns will get you into more trouble than they will ever get you out of.' "