Florida shooter starts fund-raising website

Mon Apr 9, 2012 7:14pm EDT

Justin Campbell, of Tallahassee, Florida, yells as part of a protest that shut down the headquarters of the Sanford Police Department in Sanford, Florida, April 9, 2012. REUTERS/David Manning

Justin Campbell, of Tallahassee, Florida, yells as part of a protest that shut down the headquarters of the Sanford Police Department in Sanford, Florida, April 9, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/David Manning

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(Reuters) - From hiding, George Zimmerman has created a website to raise money for his legal defense and living expenses while he awaits a special prosecutor's decision whether to charge him in the shooting death of unarmed black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

One of Zimmerman's lawyers, Craig Sonner, confirmed on Monday the site was legitimately Zimmerman's.

"He is operating this on his own," Sonner told Reuters. "I can confirm this is his site."

The website, called therealgeorgezimmerman.com, offers one of the first publicly available comments from Zimmerman since the neighborhood watch volunteer shot Martin on February 26 in what he said was self-defense.

He went into hiding shortly after the shooting, which generated nationwide controversy after police declined to arrest him. A special prosecutor is weighing whether to seek criminal charges.

"On Sunday February 26th, I was involved in a life altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage," Zimmerman says on the home page.

"As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life."

The case led to protests across the country demanding that Zimmerman be arrested. Critics have complained that Zimmerman, 28, who is white and Hispanic, thought Martin, 17, suspicious because he was black and began following him.

Zimmerman told police that Martin attacked him and he shot the teenager in self defense. Zimmerman's brother and father have said in television interviews that he feared for his life.

Zimmerman said on his website he could not attest to other efforts purporting to raise funds on his behalf and said he has not received any money. He promised to "maintain accountability" for any money received.

Martin's family has established the Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation which is raising money "to support awareness of civil rights, social justice and the quality of life for young black men," according to a website that said it has collected nearly $21,000 as of Monday afternoon.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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