LAKE MARY, Fla. (AP) — The 911 call seemed frantic: George Zimmerman’s sobbing estranged wife said he was threatening her and her father with a gun and she feared for her life. Please come.
Hours later Monday, after police converged on the home in an Orlando suburb and after speaking to her attorney, she changed her story, said Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell. She said she never saw a gun and that she and her father, whom she said Zimmerman had punched in the face, had no interest in pressing charges.
Police later said they did not find a gun on Zimmerman’s person.
The encounter Monday was the latest in a string of incidents in which Zimmerman has landed in the news since his acquittal on July 13 of all charges for fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Besides the divorce filing, he’s twice been pulled over on suspicion of speeding, ticketed once. He’s also appeared in photos at a gun maker that were published online and assisted members of a family from their vehicle following a car wreck.
Monday’s dispute involving the Zimmermans isn’t uncommon for a couple in the midst of a divorce, said his attorney, Mark O’Mara, who led the defense team that secured the jury’s not-guilty verdict. He said his client never threatened anyone with a gun and never punched his father-in-law.
Shellie Zimmerman had collected most of her belongings from the house where both she and George had been staying until she moved out. But she had returned unexpectedly Monday to gather the remaining items and emotions got out of control, O’Mara said. Police talked to everyone about what happened, but neither side is pressing charges and no one was arrested.
“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.
George Zimmerman’s brother Robert Zimmerman Jr., tweeted after the news got out of the dispute 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.”
Prosecutors, though, 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.
But 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.
Shellie Zimmerman, 26, in her divorce filing last week, said she and her husband had separated a month after he was acquitted. She has asked that her husband pay for a permanent life insurance policy with her named as the beneficiary.
In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that aired last Friday, Shellie Zimmerman said of her husband: “I have a selfish husband and I think George is all about George.” She also said her 29-year-old husband is reckless and feels invincible.
Shellie Zimmerman, who was convicted of perjury last month for lying about the couple’s finances at her husband’s bail hearing, initially told a 911 dispatcher Monday that her husband had his hand on his gun as he sat in his car outside the home. She said she was scared because she wasn’t sure what Zimmerman was capable of doing.
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 alleged that George Zimmerman had grabbed an iPad from her hand and smashed it.
“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.”
“She basically said he made a movement that would be consistent with a movement someone would make if they had a gun,” Hudson added.
Hudson said Zimmerman was released from investigative detention around 6:30 p.m. and “he just walked back into the house.”
“Right now he’s not a suspect in anything per se,” he said but added that authorities were still viewing the video to see what new information can be found.
Since his July 13 acquittal, Zimmerman has gotten a speeding ticket in Florida and was pulled over on suspicion of speeding on a highway near Dallas, Texas, but not cited. 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.
Just days after his acquittal, George Zimmerman also made news when he was credited by police and others for helping assist a couple and their two children after their SUV flipped over on a Florida highway. After the reports emerged, O’Mara had to fend off comments that it was somehow staged.
At the time, O’Mara said, Zimmerman was still getting threats and was concerned about his safety. When asked if Zimmerman was still carrying a concealed weapon, O’Mara answered, “Yes, he’s protecting himself.”
Weeks later, he appeared smiling with an employee at the gun manufacturer Kel-Tec, the same brand of pistol he used to shoot Martin during their February 2012 confrontation in Sanford. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense when he killed Martin, and the polarizing case, including an initial delay in charging Zimmerman, opened up national discussions on self-defense laws and race.
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 Zimmerman, alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman responded by requesting a restraining order against his then-fiancee.
Hudson said Zimmerman is free to do whatever he wants at this time, but suspects he will not be staying at the same house given the recent publicity.
Said Hudson: “When you’re trying to keep things quiet, it’s good to keep a low profile.”
Schneider reported from Orlando, Fla.