Family rescued by Zimmerman cancels news conference, fears 'blowback'
A couple George Zimmerman helped rescue after their family after their SUV flipped over on a Florida highway canceled a news conference Wednesday, citing the possibility of 'blowback' against them.
Mark and Dana Gerstle had planned to talk about the assistance they received from Zimmerman, who was recently acquitted of charges in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that they changed their minds, deciding they didn't want to be in the spotlight. After discussing the situation with family and friends, O'Mara said they realized that being connected to Zimmerman right now could be toxic.
"They wanted to thank him publicly," O'Mara said. "They thought that they could not, for the possibility of blowback against them."
O'Mara brushed aside suggestions Wednesday that his client's actions in helping save a family from a car wreck were somehow staged, noting that multiple government agencies and witnesses have backed up the family's account.
"The same people who refuse to accept the jury's verdict, just want to be angry, just want to hate George Zimmerman, are still going to," O'Mara said. "Even if we had a videotape of the accident, they would still say it was made up. So you can't really respond to people who just don't want to listen to the truth."
Zimmerman, 29, and another man helped the couple and their two children out of a flipped SUV off the road near Interstate 4 last week. The family wasn't hurt.
"I think what happened with them today was they were very worried, and I think they were advised by family and friends that they really shouldn't get involved with anything to do with George Zimmerman...and that's really sad," O'Mara told reporters, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
"They can't even say that George did something good for them because people out there believe he's so toxic even though he's been acquitted," O'Mara said.
It was the first time Zimmerman was seen publicly since he was acquitted earlier this month of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the 2012 slaying of the unarmed 17-year-old. The Florida teenager was shot and killed last year during a confrontation with Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. The case spawned heated national debates about racial profiling and the so-called Stand Your Ground self-defense laws in Florida and other states.
O'Mara said Zimmerman is still getting threats and is concerned about his safety. When asked if Zimmerman was still carrying a concealed weapon, O'Mara answered, "Yes, he's protecting himself."
The U.S. Department of Justice has taken all the evidence from the trial, including the gun that killed Martin, as part of a civil rights investigation. But even if authorities eventually decide to give the gun back to Zimmerman, O'Mara said it should be destroyed.
"That gun will never be used again by Mr. Zimmerman or anybody else," O'Mara said.