By Rene Stutzman and Jeff Weiner, Orlando Sentinel
11:20 PM EDT, July 18, 2012
George Zimmerman told a national TV audience on Wednesday that he doesn't regret anything that happened the night he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
"I feel like it was all God's plan," he told conservative talk show host Sean Hannity in Zimmerman's first interview since the shooting.
Toward the end of the hourlong interview, however, Zimmerman backtracked on that statement.
"I do wish there was something, anything I could have done that wouldn't have put me in a position where I would have had to take a life," he said. "I do want to tell everyone I'm sorry that this happened. I hate to think that because of this incident, because of my actions, it has polarized, divided America. I'm truly sorry."
There were few surprises in the interview on Fox News. Zimmerman, with attorney Mark O'Mara sitting next to him, was calm, unemotional and accepted no responsibility for the violence that night.
"I am not a racist. I am not a murderer," he said.
He apologized again to Trayvon's parents.
"I would tell them that again I'm sorry. I don't have, my wife and I don't have any children. … I am sorry that they buried their child. I can't imagine what it must feel like, and I pray for them daily," he said.
Zimmerman, 28, killed the unarmed black teenager on a sidewalk not far from where Trayvon was staying Feb. 26.
The site was a few blocks from Zimmerman's town home. He told Sanford police he killed Trayvon in self-defense after the teenager knocked him to the ground and began pounding his head into a sidewalk.
Prosecutors say he's guilty of profiling, that he assumed Trayvon was about to commit a crime, began following him and then murdered him.
"I just think it's a tragic situation," Zimmerman told Hannity. "I hope it's the most difficult thing I'll ever go through in my life."
He was troubled by all the media attention, he said.
"It's surreal," he said. "I don't like that they've rushed to judgment the way they have."
Hannity also asked Zimmerman about allegations from a young woman who claims he sexually molested her when the two were children. The improper touching began, the unidentified woman said, when she was 6 and ended when she was 16.
The woman, who also accused Zimmerman of disliking black people, said Zimmerman was about two years older than her.
Zimmerman did not directly address the molestation claim.
It is ironic that the only witness who says he's a racist, Zimmerman said, also claims he molested her.
Although the shooting has prompted a great deal of public debate about Florida's Stand Your Ground statute, which allows someone with a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury to use deadly force, Zimmerman said he had never heard of it before the shooting.
Zimmerman said he always carried a 9mm handgun, for which he had a concealed weapons permit, except when he went to work.
He was not expected to provide details to Hannity about the shooting, but ended up giving a blow by blow account, essentially the same one he gave Sanford police in a video re-enactment the day after the shooting.
He was driving to Target to buy groceries when he spotted Trayvon, he said, and grew suspicious because it was raining and the teenager was making no obvious attempt to get out of the rain and was in someone's yard - not on a sidewalk.
Moments later when they came face to face, Trayvon asked, "What's your problem," he told Hannity, then knocked Zimmerman to the ground with a single punch that broke his nose.
Zimmerman said he thought he was going to die when Trayvon "was slamming my head into the concrete and I thought I'd lose consciousness."
Viewers of the broadcast flooded Twitter to react to the interview.
"In Hannity interview Zimmerman really said he would change nothing about that night," wrote one tweeter, a grandfather from southern California. "That speaks volumes."
In a text message to the Orlando Sentinel, family attorney Benjamin Crump provided Trayvon's father's reaction to the interview.
"We must worship a different God because there is no way MY God would have wanted G. Zimmerman to KILL my teenage son."
Zimmerman is free on $1 million bail, living at a hidden location in Seminole County as he awaits trial.
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