As the spotlight shines brighter on the Trayvon Martin killing, more and more questions have been asked about George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchmen who admitted to shooting and killing the teen. Amidst the controversy, Frank Taaffe, a fellow neighborhood watch captain and friend of Zimmerman came to his defense.
Taaffe told NBC Miami that there had been eight burglaries within 15 months, which he said set the stage for Zimmerman's heightened suspicion. He said safety, not race, was Zimmerman's main concern.
"George is a congenial, admirable person," he told the news outlet. "He had a passion and care for this neighborhood, to ensure the safety of everybody here."
Martin, who was black, was walking back to his father's house after a trip to the convenience store in Sanford, Fla. on February 26. George Zimmerman, who was identified by his father as Hispanic, called 911 and told the dispatchers that the teen "looked suspicious."
Despite being told by the dispatchers not to engage the teen, Zimmerman left his car and approached Martin. Neighbors called into 911 to report a scuffle, some cries for help, and gunshots. When police arrived, Zimmerman admitted to shooting Martin, who was unarmed, but claimed that he acted in self-defense. Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged, and the incident has attracted national attention.
Sanford police declined to charge Zimmerman, saying they lack evidence refuting his claim of self-defense. Under the 2005 Stand Your Ground law, Florida residents can use lethal force against an attacker if they believe their life is threatened. However, Republican state lawmakers responsible for the controversial legislation recently said it shouldn't apply to Zimmerman.
Nationwide, civil rights leaders and protesters have criticized Bill Lee Jr., the Sanford police chief who temporarily stepped down saying that his involvement in the case "has become a distraction." The investigation has been taken over by the state attorney's office to decide whether or not Zimmerman should be charged.
But Taaffe told NBC Miami that he is troubled by the way his friend is being portrayed in the media.
"It's really sad that he has already been convicted in the public media and has already been sentenced to the gas chamber," he said. "Let's let justice do its job."