A Sanford neighbor of George Zimmerman and fellow neighborhood watch captain in their gated community came to his defense Tuesday, saying that he shot Miami teenager Trayvon Martin after numerous burglaries at The Retreat at Twin Lakes.
Frank Taaffe pointed out the circumstances that he believes led his 28-year-old neighbor to react the way he did on the night of Feb. 26: eight burglaries within 15 months, most done by young black males, he said.
"The stage was already set. It was a perfect storm,” Taaffe said. “I think any time you use a weapon, there are certain anger issues working.”
NBC 6 could not immediately confirm the burglary statistic Taaffe cited in a phone call to Sanford Police Tuesday night.
Martin, 17, picked up Skittles and iced tea from a 7-Eleven that Sunday, then headed back towards his father’s girlfriend's home on a rainy, drizzly night. Martin put on his hoodie and ran to take cover. Zimmerman spotted him, got out of his car and followed him.
Their confrontation ended with Martin getting shot in the chest.
Twin Lakes’ population is ethnically mixed. A few residents said there is tension within the gated community.
“I think he had fed-up issues. He was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore,” Taaffe said of Zimmerman.
He insisted, however, that Zimmerman cared about all his neighbors.
"George is a congenial, amiable, admirable person,” he said. "He had a passion and a care for this neighborhood to ensure the safety of everybody here. And, furthermore, George is no Rambo."
Taaffe said that Zimmerman actually was appointed as a watch captain, despite reports that he appointed himself to the post.
He said he believes his neighbor acted in self-defense. That is what Zimmerman told police.
Zimmerman has not been charged, despite growing calls for his arrest.
"It’s really sad that he's already been convicted in the public media and has already been sentenced to the gas chamber,” Taaffe said. “Let's let justice do its job."
At the same time, Martin’s death is “devastating,” he said.
”It's a tragic event – we can’t bring that boy back,” he said. “I wish we could.”