Column: Florida Man #1 - George Zimmerman

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Florida Man is an Internet meme that links news stories about unusual or strange stories out of Florida, particularly those where the subject is referred to as “Florida Man.” Featured on Twitter (@_FloridaMan), Reddit (reddit.com/r/FloridaMan) and Tumblr (floridamanandwoman.tumblr.com), Florida Man showcases the crimes, follies and misfortunes of the Sunshine State’s most unique characters.

I discussed “FloriDUH’s” status as the Weird Capital of America in a previous column; and made reference to the blog of the same name (sun-sentinel.com/news/strange/floriduh-blog). Another blog, FloriDum.com, collects similar stories.

One Florida Man who makes repeat appearances in the blogosphere is George Zimmerman. The son of a Peruvian mother and a German-American father, Zimmerman is a more typical Floridian than myself.

Zimmerman is most (in)famous for the shooting death, on February 26, 2012, of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African-American who was visiting family members in Sanford. Zimmerman, who was doing neighborhood watch for his gated community, claimed he acted in self-defense, and invoked Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” gun law. On July 13, 2013, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

If Zimmerman had any sense, he would try to live the rest of his life quietly and without publicity, like Casey Anthony did after she was acquitted of the murder of her daughter, Caylee. But Zimmerman has an almost unique capacity for getting into trouble. On September 9, 2013 police in Lake Mary answered a 911 call from Zimmerman’s estranged wife, who said Zimmerman threatened her and her father with a gun and punched her father in the face. Zimmerman was arrested but his wife declined to press charges.

On November 18, 2013, Zimmerman’s then-girlfriend called the cops to her home in Apopka and alleged that Zimmerman pointed a gun at her and broke some of her belongings. Zimmerman was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence battery, but later the girlfriend refused to press charges.

On January 8, 2015, Zimmerman was arrested by Lake Mary police after he allegedly threw a wine bottle at another ex-girlfriend. (How does he get them?) Here again, the victim refused to press charges.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman was involved in a couple of road rage incidents with Matthew Apperson, which led to Apperson shooting Zimmerman on a street in Lake Mary. In all fairness, in this case Apperson was at fault.

As his record makes clear, Zimmerman loves guns. All of his public appearances that do not involve the police have Zimmerman visiting gun shops or gun factories in the Central Florida area.

Recently Zimmerman befriended Andy Hallinan, the owner of Florida Gun Supply in Inverness and himself a bona fide Florida Man. Hallinan got in trouble when he declared his store to be a “Muslim-free zone” and was sued by the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Zimmerman, who apparently dabbles in painting, produced prints of one of his works as a fundraiser. Zimmerman’s painting, of the Confederate battle flag (of course), includes the inscription “The 2nd [Amendment] protects our 1st.” The prints go for $50 each; and one lucky person will win the original painting. The proceeds will be split between Zimmerman and Hallinan, to help pay for their hefty legal bills, and an unspecified portion will go to the Boys and Girls Club.

Zimmerman and Hallinan are two peas in a pod. Both are young men - George is 31 and Andy is 28 - which does not speak well for the future of the “Gunshine State.” The duo posted a ten-minute mini documentary on YouTube, where they detailed their views on the Confederate flag, guns, the media, President Obama, and the Second Amendment. Both men are “patriots” (they say) fighting against a multitude of evils.

Most Florida Men (and Florida Women) make one public appearance and then disappear into oblivion (or jail). George Zimmerman is the gift that keeps on giving. For that reason, even though it is only 2015, I name George Zimmerman the Florida Man of the Decade. I doubt anyone else will show up before 2020 who would amaze or appall us the way this man does, again and again.


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