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Zimmerman's father says Trayvon Martin threatened to kill his son

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:23 PM EDT, Thu March 29, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Video shows Zimmerman at police station
  • "He continued to beat George," father tells news station
  • Martin family and some legal experts say videos shows Zimmerman was not severly beaten

Friday night, CNN's Soledad O'Brien leads a special town hall event about the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin that has sparked a national dialogue on race and what it says about America. "Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America." Tune in Friday night at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

(CNN) -- The father of George Zimmerman, the man accused of shooting and killing and unarmed black teen, says the teen threatened to kill Zimmerman and beat him so badly that it forced Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon Martin.

"Trayvon Martin said something to the effect of you're going to die now or you're going to die tonight, something to that effect," Robert Zimmerman told Orlando news station WOFL. "He continued to beat George. At some point, George pulled his pistol. Did what he did."

In the interview Robert Zimmerman, his face obscured because he says he fears for his safety, vehemently defended the shooting that has caused outrage throughout the nation, moved President Obama to call it a tragedy and prompted a federal investigation.

Robert Zimmerman told the news station that Martin confronted his son first and pummeled his son continually.

"He was punched in the nose. His nose was broken," Robert Zimmerman said. "He was knocked to the concrete. Trayvon Martin got on top of him and just started beating him. In the face. In his nose, hitting his head on the concrete."

Robert Zimmerman was not there the night of the shooting and did not say during the interview how he knew the details of the altercation.

The elder Zimmerman's account was disputed by Martin's family attorney and several other legal experts.

A surveillance video taken the night of the incident at police headquarters shows Zimmerman, his hands cuffed, exiting a patrol car.

The video, first broadcast Wednesday by ABCNews.com, shows an officer looking at the back of Zimmerman's head. The video did not provide a close-up of Zimmerman's head but some say it shows Zimmerman did not have significant injuries to his face.

"The injuries that made it sound as though he really should have been on a stretcher are not apparent in this tape at all," said Marcia Clark, the former prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial. "He moves freely. He moves fluidly, not like someone who has just been through a beating in anyway shape or form, someone's whose head has been pounded on the pavement as hard as described, someone who's nose was broken and bleeding. That tells you a great deal."

Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother, said the video is another strong piece of evidence proving her son was killed unjustly.

"I believe that this video is the icing on the cake," she said. "This is not the first part of the evidence that they have had. They have had the 911 tapes and they have also have witnesses. This is in addition to what the Sanford Police Department has always had. There is no problem with this case and he needs to be arrested."

The 17-year-old was shot to death February 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, as Martin was walking back to his father's fiancee's house in Sanford, Florida. He was wearing a hoodie and carrying Skittles candy and a can of iced tea he had purchased from a nearby convenience store.

Zimmerman says he killed Martin in self-defense after the teen attacked him in the gated community. Zimmerman has not been arrested and authorities have said said he has not been charged because there are no grounds to disprove his story of what happened.

The shooting has hit a nerve in the nation, sparked a debate about racial profiling and ignited protests and calls for Zimmerman's arrest.

Robert Zimmerman said his son is having a hard time dealing with the criticism.

"I never foresaw so much hate coming from the president, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP. Every organization imaginable is trying to get notoriety or profit from this in some way," Robert Zimmerman told WOFL. "But there's so much hate that I have never been involved in hate and George hasn't. It's really unbelievable."

Robert Zimmerman said her son is not racist and race had nothing to do with incident.

"He would do anything to help anybody at any time. He's color blind when it comes to any race," Robert Zimmerman said.

Tracy Martin, Martin's father, said Wednesday that the 911 tape shows Zimmerman was profiling his son.

In a recording of Zimmerman's call to police, some people have said they hear what sounds like a possible racial slur. CNN enhanced the sound of the 911 call, and several members of CNN's editorial staff repeatedly reviewed the tape but could reach no consensus on whether Zimmerman used a slur.

Angela Corey, the special prosecutor assigned to investigate the case, said Tuesday that investigators would look into the allegations that Zimmerman used a racial slur.

Martin, who lived in Miami, was visiting Sanford after receiving a 10-day suspension from school, a family spokesman has said. An empty plastic bag found in his book bag was determined to contain marijuana residue.

Crump, Martin's parents' attorney, said information regarding the suspension was irrelevant and amounts to a smear campaign against the youth.

Florida law allows the use of deadly force anywhere a person feels a reasonable fear of death or serious injury. It has been cited in a number of justifiable homicide cases in Florida.

But as more and more information surfaces, the picture of what happened becomes more complicated.

Despite the twists and turns in the case Fulton, Martin's mother, says she still has faith in authorities investigating her son's case.

"I feel confident that they're going to do a thorough investigation," Fulton said. "We're trying to be patient, even though it's been over a month. We're trying to be patient, and we're trying to press on for justice."

CNN's Umaro Djau, Deirdre Walsh, Ed Payne and Tracy Sabo contributed to this report.

Watch Anderson Cooper 360° weeknights 8pm ET. For the latest from AC360° click here.

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