ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — George Zimmerman had moved out of Florida recently, hoping for a fresh start.
In the two years since his acquittal in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, the one-time neighborhood watch volunteer has had several run-ins with the law.
Once again, he is involved in a police investigation, only this time authorities say he was shot at in his pickup truck. What exactly transpired with the shooter — a man he crossed paths with last fall — is in dispute.
Zimmerman and Matthew Apperson were both driving Monday on a busy road in the Orlando suburb of Lake Mary when some sort of confrontation occurred. The passenger window of Zimmerman’s pickup had a bullet hole in it and Zimmerman suffered minor injuries from flying glass and debris.
Zimmerman had returned to the area for Mother’s Day and a doctor’s appointment, and was driving to his doctor’s office when the confrontation took place, said his attorney, Don West. Apperson works nearby, at a disability-benefits office.
Police recovered a handgun from Zimmerman and took two guns from Apperson’s car. Both men had their guns legally.
“He never waved it, displayed it or brandished it,” West said of Zimmerman. “He did not threaten Mr. Apperson in any way with a firearm.”
Apperson’s attorney, Mark NeJame, said the shooting was “a good, old-fashioned self-defense case” and that Apperson’s encounter with Zimmerman was pure “happenstance.” Apperson claimed Zimmerman brandished a gun and he feared for his life, NeJame said.
“He is not looking for trouble. He did not want trouble,” NeJame said. “He’s not following George Zimmerman around. He’s not wanting anything to do with George Zimmerman, as it relates to any of this.”
Police on Tuesday released a 911 call in which the caller says Apperson told him he was forced to fire at Zimmerman.
“A guy says he had to shoot a guy through the window and he wants the police to come,” the man said on the call. “He had to shoot at somebody … He said it was George Zimmerman.”
Documents show detectives are investigating the shooting as a possible aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. There is no timetable on when they will decide on whether any charges are warranted.
Police appealed to the public for help, believing “there is someone that saw something” on the busy road, Lake Mary Officer Bianca Gillett said.
Zimmerman and Apperson were involved in a road-rage episode last September. Apperson said Zimmerman had threatened to kill him after Apperson made a U-turn that put him in an adjacent lane, asking “Do you know who I am?” Apperson decided not to pursue charges and police officers were unable to move forward without a license plate number or witnesses.
Two days later, Apperson called police to report that Zimmerman’s truck was parked near the disability-benefits office. Zimmerman told police officers that he had an appointment in the same office park, and no charges were filed.
West refused to say where Zimmerman was now living. Zimmerman doesn’t have a regular-paying job, and will stay in central Florida to cooperate with the investigation “until he is no longer needed,” West said.
“He was getting settled,” West said. “His plan was to be around for a couple of days and go back.”
Zimmerman was acquitted in the February 2012 shooting death of Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in a case that sparked protests and a national debate about race relations. The Justice Department later decided not to bring a civil rights case against Zimmerman.
Since then, Zimmerman was charged with assault based on complaints from two girlfriends. In both cases, the girlfriends refused to cooperate and charges were dropped. His estranged wife also accused him of smashing her iPad during an argument days after she filed divorce papers. No charges were filed because of lack of evidence.
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