110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Police: Acquitted killer was there 'as a friend'
By Rick Tonyan
posted Jul 29, 2014 - 11:41:29am
George Zimmerman, the man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford in February 2012, was in DeLand over the weekend, providing security for Pompano Pat's on South Woodland Boulevard, the DeLand Police Department said.
And reports of his presence prompted threats of violence against the business and its owner, a store employee said.
Pompano Pat's, which sells guns and motorcycles, is owned by DeLand mayoral candidate Pat Johnson. Johnson is challenging incumbent Mayor Bob Apgar in the Aug. 26 election.
Three hours after the story broke online, Pompano Pat's issued a press release denying that Johnson knew anything about Zimmerman being at Pompano Pat's.
"The reports and allegations are nothing more than a negative political campaign stunt," Tim Franklin, Pompano Pat's media-relations manager, wrote in the statement.
But the DeLand Police Department said it was, indeed, George Zimmerman on the property at about 1 a.m. Sunday morning, July 27.
"We ran into Mr. Zimmerman over the weekend," Sgt. Chris Estes told The Beacon.
A report came in to The Beacon Monday, July 28, that Johnson had Zimmerman providing security at his store. According to that report, a vehicle had been parked for a long time near an auto-parts store next door to Pompano Pat's and, when it was checked out, it turned out to be Zimmerman sitting in a car, keeping an eye on Pompano Pat's.
Asked Monday whether he had hired Zimmerman to provide security at his store, Johnson told The Beacon, "No. I never hired anyone."
Sgt. Estes said Zimmerman told officers from the DeLand Police Department that he had not been hired for the security work.
"It sounds like he was just down there as a friend," Estes said.
Sam Porter, gun manager at the dealership, reiterated that point in a later conversation with The Beacon.
"George Zimmerman has never been employed by Pompano Pat's in any way, shape or form as a security guard or any another employment," Porter said. "George Zimmerman took it upon himself to take that action [guarding the property]. We weren't aware of it until this [Tuesday] morning when all this broke on national news channels."
Porter said the company has received a large number of calls from national media, but also some from individuals that threatened violence, causing Johnson to take precautions.
"He's securing his family in a safe location," Porter said.
The DeLand police report of the July 27 encounter with Zimmerman states Zimmerman told officers he was there with his dog to watch Johnson's property, and that Zimmerman "was going to be around the business at night for an indeterminate amount of time."
The report also states Zimmerman told police Johnson had asked Zimmerman to leave the dog inside the business; however, Zimmerman offered to sit in the parking lot with the dog, instead.
Ten long guns, five rifles and five shotguns were stolen from Johnson's business at 2075 S. Woodland Blvd. in a pre-dawn break-in July 10.
Zimmerman was acquitted in July 2013 of criminal charges in the death of Martin, who had been unarmed and was walking home from a convenience store in a gated community when Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, followed Martin and ended up shooting him. Zimmerman said — and his jury agreed — that he shot Martin in self-defense after the young man attacked him.
After the acquittal, police and leaders in cities around the country urged calm and peaceful expressions of concern about the case.
The verdict divided the nation. One ramification in Volusia County was the firing of Beach Safety Capt. Todd Snipes, who had been among those using the Internet to comment on the acquittal.
Snipes published what were deemed to be racially offensive material. The images depicted Martin, with the caption, "Those Skittles were to die for." Martin had been carrying Skittles and iced tea when he encountered Zimmerman.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported in July 2013 that Johnson offered Zimmerman a free handgun to replace the one authorities had taken from him as evidence in the Martin case.
"This is so he can protect himself," Johnson told the Daytona Beach newspaper.
Ironically, Johnson's campaign has been intertwined with that of Krystal Brown, a candidate for Seat 3 on the DeLand City Commission. She is running against Jessica Davis, a youth career coach. Both women are African-American.
Many of Johnson's supporters also side with Brown, who came to public attention after her ex-husband, Marlon Brown, was run over and killed by a DeLand police car during a brief chase.
Parallels between the Brown and Martin cases were drawn because neither Zimmerman nor the policeman who was driving the car, James Harris, originally were charged with crimes.
Although Harris later was fired, he was not criminally prosecuted.
Earlier, before Zimmerman was discovered guarding his business, Johnson said he saw no contradictions in his sympathy for both Martin's killer and for Krystal Brown.
"I'm a compassionate guy," Johnson said. "I've spent 10 years defending people — whether you're the most hated man in America [Zimmerman] or a man being run over by a police officer."
Johnson was not available today for comments.
The full statement from Tim Franklin of Pompano Pat's:
"ANY and ALL reports made to the media or other agencies that Pompano Pat's or its Corporate President Pat Johnson hired George Zimmerman as a "Security Guard or Night Watchman" are 100 percent false. Our company and its founders learned of his recent sighting from mass media reports.
"The reports and allegations are nothing more than a negative political campaign stunt, manufactured specifically to hurt our Corporate President's race. Our company and its founders were appalled and disgusted to learn a politician would use the death of a 17-year-old boy to further their political career. This stunt establishes a new low in Florida politics."
See video of officers' interview with Zimmerman at Pompano Pat's.
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