Valdosta Daily Times

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September 10, 2013

Zimmerman’s wife won’t press charges despite call

LAKE MARY, Fla. — The sobbing wife of George Zimmerman called 911 on Monday to report that her estranged husband was threatening her with a gun and had punched her father in the nose, but hours later she decided not to press charges against the man acquitted of all charges for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin.

Police officers in Lake Mary, Fla., were still investigating the encounter as a domestic dispute, but no charges had been filed as of Monday night. Shellie Zimmerman left the house after being questioned by police. George Zimmerman remained there into the early evening and his attorney denied any wrongdoing by his client. George Zimmerman was not arrested.

Shellie Zimmerman, 26, who has filed for divorce, initially told a 911 dispatcher that her husband had his hand on his gun as he sat in his car outside the home she was at with her father. She said she was scared because she wasn’t sure what the 29-year-old Zimmerman was capable of doing. Hours later she changed her story and said she never saw a firearm, said Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell.

For the time being, “domestic violence can’t be invoked because she has changed her story and says she didn’t see a firearm,” Bracknell said.

“We didn’t find a gun,” Lake Mary police spokesman Zach Hudson said late Monday night. “We didn’t find anything that indicated he had a gun on his person.”

Hudson said Zimmerman was released from investigative detention at around 6:30 p.m. and “he just walked back into the house.”

“Right now he’s not a suspect in anything per se, but were still viewing the video and trying to ascertain what new information that may yield,” he said, referring to video from home surveillance cameras outside the house.

On the 911 call, Shellie Zimmerman is sobbing and repeating “Oh my God” as she talks to a police dispatcher. She yells at her father to get inside the house, saying Zimmerman may start shooting at them.

“He’s threatening all of us with a firearm ... He punched my dad in the nose,” Shellie Zimmerman said on the call. “I don’t know what he’s capable of. I’m really scared.”

She also said he grabbed an iPad from her hand and smashed it.

Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said his client never threatened his estranged wife and her father with a gun and never punched his father-in-law. Shellie Zimmerman had collected most of her belongings Saturday from the house, which is owned by her parents, where she and George had both been staying until she moved out. She had returned unexpectedly Monday to gather the remaining items. Emotions got out of control, O’Mara said, but neither side is filing charges against the other.

“I know the 911 tape suggests that Shellie was saying something but I think that was heightened emotions,” O’Mara said. “There may have been some pushing and touching. That happens a lot in divorce situations ... Nobody was injured.”

Her father also declined to press charges, the police chief said.

Prosecutors could still build a case based on surveillance video from cameras outside the house and also video from the squad cars of officers who responded. Florida law allows police officers to arrest someone for domestic violence without the consent of the victim.

Hudson said the estranged husband and wife were blaming each other for being the aggressor and that police officers were sorting through their accounts.

In her divorce filing last week, Shellie Zimmerman said she and her husband had separated a month after he was acquitted of any crime for fatally shooting the 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, not far from where Monday’s investigation happened.

Shellie Zimmerman asked the dispatcher to send an ambulance to check her father out.  A fire department ambulance arrived at the house, Hudson said, but nobody needed to be transported.

“The call went out as a 911 call that Mr. Zimmerman was threatening them with a firearm,” Hudson said. “We’re trying to see if that’s true or not.”

Later Monday night, Hudson said, “She basically said he made a movement that would be consistent with a movement someone would make if they had a gun.” But no gun was found.

Shellie Zimmerman had asked that her husband pay for a permanent life insurance policy with her named as the beneficiary, according to a divorce petition made public last week.

In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that aired last Friday, Zimmerman said her husband left her with “a bunch of pieces of broken glass” after the acquittal. She said he only stayed in their house three or four nights since the trial ended and that they even tried counseling. But she moved out Aug. 13.

“I have a selfish husband and I think George is all about George,” she said.

George Zimmerman’s brother Robert Zimmerman Jr., tweeted after the news got out of the dispute at the home that “we’ve learned from GZ case not to ‘jump to conclusions,’ to wait for facts, & to avoid speculation. ‘News’ is a business — not your friend.”

Last month, Shellie Zimmerman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge for lying about the couple’s finances during a bail hearing following her husband’s arrest in Martin’s shooting.  

George Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense when he killed Martin and the polarizing case, which included an initial delay in charging Zimmerman, opened up national discussions on self-defense laws and race. Martin was black. Zimmerman has a white father and Hispanic mother.

Shellie Zimmerman was sentenced to a year’s probation and 100 hours of community service. Her husband did not attend the sentencing hearing in the Sanford courtroom.

George Zimmerman has been involved with a domestic case at least once before. In 2005, Zimmerman’s former fiancee filed for a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman responded by requesting a restraining order against his then-fiancee.

Since his acquittal, Zimmerman has gotten a speeding ticket in Florida and was pulled over on suspicion of speeding on a highway near Dallas but not ticketed.

Forney police stopped Zimmerman as he drove west on U.S. 80, about 20 miles east of Dallas. A police dashcam video released July 31 shows an officer interacting with Zimmerman and letting him go with a warning.

The officer can be heard saying, “Just take it easy. Go ahead and shut your glove compartment. Don’t play with your firearm.”

Although the officer’s comments indicated Zimmerman had a gun, a weapon can’t be seen and it’s not clear that he had one. However, Zimmerman had a concealed weapons permit in Florida that would be also recognized under Texas law. The gun used in Martin’s shooting remains in the custody of the federal government, which is looking into a possible civil rights case.

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