Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Trayvon killer charged with assault

Seminole County Chief Deputy Dennis Lemma talks in Orlando, Florida, about the latest arrest of George Zimmerman.
Seminole County Chief Deputy Dennis Lemma talks in Orlando, Florida, about the latest arrest of George Zimmerman.

The former neighbourhood watch volunteer cleared of murder after shooting dead an unarmed black teenager has been charged with assault after his girlfriend said he pointed a shotgun at her during an argument.

Samantha Scheibe called emergency services to say George Zimmerman smashed a glass table, threatened her with the gun and pushed her out of the house in Apopka, Florida, according to an arrest report.

After pushing her out, Zimmerman, 30, barricaded the door with furniture and refused to leave, saying that he would talk to police by phone, authorities said.

The arrest is the latest legal problem for Zimmerman since he was acquitted over the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last February. Claims that the killing was racially motivated stoked a nationwide debate on racial profiling.

"You point your gun at my fricking face," Ms Scheibe is heard telling Zimmerman on an emergency call. "Get out of my house. Do not push me out of my house. Please get out of my house."

Seconds later she told the dispatcher: "You kidding me? He pushed me out of my house and locked me out. ... He knows how to do this. He knows how to play this game."

Moments later Zimmerman called emergency services from inside the barricaded house to tell his side of the story. "I have a girlfriend, who, for lack of a better word, has gone crazy on me," he said.

Zimmerman then said he never pulled a gun on his girlfriend and that it was Ms Scheibe who smashed a table at the home they shared. He also told the dispatcher that Scheibe was pregnant with their child and that she had decided she would raise the child on her own. When Zimmerman started to leave, "she got mad", he said.

Seminole County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Dennis Lemma said Ms Scheibe was not pregnant.

Deputies used a key provided by Ms Scheibe to unlock the door and they were able to push through the barricade, he said. "She was very concerned for her own safety especially having the weapon pointed at her and then being pushed out," he said.

Mr Lemma says Zimmerman was co-operative and unarmed when deputies came to the house. "The easiest way to describe it is rather passive. Clearly, he's had the opportunity to encounter situations similar to this in the past," he said.

Zimmerman was charged with domestic aggravated assault with a weapon, domestic battery and criminal mischief and will appear in court later today. He would be housed in a single-person cell and guards would check on him hourly, Mr Lemma added.

Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for the Martin family, was at Harvard Law School with the teenager's mother, Sybrina Fulton, yesterday, to speak at a symposium about his legacy and self-defence laws.

Mr Crump said they found out about Zimmerman's arrest from television reports. He said the news of the arrest did not affect their mood because they were focused on discussing ways to reform self-defence laws.

Neither Mark O'Mara nor Don West - Zimmerman's defence lawyers during the trial of the Martin case - was currently representing him, a spokesman for Mr O'Mara said.

Ms Scheibe's neighbours said it was frightening to learn that Zimmerman had been living nearby. "Just when you thought you heard the last of George Zimmerman," said Catherine Cantrell.

"I'm in absolute shock. He was never outside. It's not like he was out flaunting around". Ms Cantrell said Ms Scheibe was very sweet and quiet.

Sarah Tyler, 26, lives opposite the tan stucco house on the cul-de-sac of single family homes in Apopka, just north west of Orlando. "It's kind of frightening," she said.

Zimmerman has had other brushes with the law since his acquittal.

He and his estranged wife were involved in a domestic dispute in September, just days after Shellie Zimmerman filed divorce papers, but police later said no charges were filed against either of them because of a lack of evidence.

Zimmerman has also been stopped three times for traffic offences since his acquittal.

In 2005 he had to take anger management courses after he was accused of attacking an undercover officer who was trying to arrest his friend.

Later that year, Zimmerman's former fiancee filed for a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman responded by requesting a restraining order against her. Both requests were granted. No criminal charges were filed.

AP

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