Published July 18, 2012
George Zimmerman, in an interview Wednesday with Fox News' Sean Hannity, called the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin a "tragic situation" and "the most difficult thing I'll ever go through in my life."
But Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch leader, also spoke in detail about what happened that fateful night in February, saying he had followed Martin because he looked suspicious running between houses in the rain.
Martin soon turned to confront Zimmerman and "asked me what my problem was" before the exchange escalated into violence, Zimmerman told Hannity in his first TV interview, conducted in an undisclosed location in Florida. The 28-year-old, with his attorney sitting by his side, said he reached into his pocket to find his phone to call 911 for a second time, and "I looked up and he punched me and broke my nose."
At one point Zimmerman said he heard Martin "telling me he’s going to kill me."
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for shooting and killing 17-year-old Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., though he says he acted in self-defense. At first, "I didn't think I hit him," Zimmerman said, adding he only found out later that Martin had died.
Now he is in hiding and said he feels his life is in jeopardy, based on death threats he has received. He told Fox News that on the night of the shooting he had gone out to shop at Target -- "that's the last time I've been home."
The case drew intense national attention as speculation grew about the motives for the shooting, especially given that Martin was black. Zimmerman has white and Hispanic heritage.
He dismissed suggestions by some that he acted out of racism.
"I don't think it's fair that they rushed to judgment to assume that," he told Fox News.
Police initially declined to press charges, citing Florida's so-called "Stand Your Ground" law. But a special prosecutor who was called in to investigate concluded that the evidence didn't support Zimmerman's claims, and the murder charge was filed.
When asked what he would say to Martin's parents, Zimmerman said, "I would tell them that, again, I'm sorry."
"My wife and I don’t have any children," Zimmerman told Hannity. "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 that they aren’t born yet.
"I am sorry that they buried their child. I can’t imagine what it must feel like. I pray for them daily."
Zimmerman, who is free on bond in Florida while awaiting trial, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.
Hannity had spoke with Zimmerman, 28, off the record in April when he contacted Hannity against the advice of his attorneys. Both Hannity and Zimmerman denied claims that Hannity offered the murder suspect any financial assistance or payment.
The interview concluded with Zimmerman looking into the camera and saying that he wishes the night hadn't ended in Martin's death.
"I do want to tell everyone, my wife, my family, my parents, my grandmother, the Martins, the city of Sanford and America that I'm sorry that this happened," he said. "I hate to think that because of this incident, because my actions, it's polarized and divided American. And I'm truly sorry."