Breaking News Emails
The bidding on an online auction to sell the gun George Zimmerman used to kill Florida teenager Trayvon Martin topped $65 million on Friday — but the enormous offer appeared to be just one of several made by bogus buyers.
The bidders on UnitedGunGroup.com included someone by the handle "Racist McShootFace," which became a trending hashtag on Twitter. That account was taken down, but others made by users with similarly questionable names were still listed.
After reportedly saying it would take down the auction Thursday, United Gun Group released a statement Friday on Twitter apparently walking back that decision. The statement said that "unless the law has been violated, it is the intention of United Gun Group to allow its members to use any of the available features."
"While not always popular, this is where we stand," adding that they are sorry for the Martin family's loss.
United Gun Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the auction. There was at least one person on the site saying they had a "legitimate offer" for the weapon Friday.
The group is the second to host the listing after an initial site, GunBroker.com, yanked an auction right as the bidding was slated to start Thursday morning.
"Our site rules state that we reserve the right to reject listings at our sole discretion, and have done so with the Zimmerman listing," the site said in a statement. "We want no part in the listing on our web site or in any of the publicity it is receiving."
The auction listing on United Gun Group includes a description of the firearm — a 9 mm Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol — written by Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch captain acquitted by a jury in Martin's 2012 shooting death.
Zimmerman, 32, said the Justice Department had recently returned the pistol to him, and he was not comfortable with some of the offers he has received from prospective gun buyers that he decided to sell it himself through the auction.
"Now is your opportunity to own a piece of American History," he wrote. "Good Luck."
The shooting of Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African-American, became a lightning rod case that set off protests and a national conversation about race.
Zimmerman confronted Martin after he saw him walking through his gated Sanford community on Feb. 26, 2012, and did not recognize him. That led to an altercation and the shooting. Zimmerman claimed self-defense.
At his 2013 trial, he was found not guilty of second-degree murder.
Neither Zimmerman nor his defense attorney have responded to requests for comment about the auction.
In an interview with FOX affiliate WOFL, Zimmerman said he is "a free American."
"I can do what I want with my possessions," he told the station.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, told NBC News on Thursday that "it's just shocking" the weapon used to kill their son was on the auction block.
"To everybody else, it may be a cause or a hashtag, but this is their son," Crump said. "So somebody's actually talking about profiting from the loss of their child and it's just very hurtful to them."
Zimmerman filed a defamation lawsuit against NBC News in 2012. A judge dismissed that claim in 2014. Zimmerman appealed, but a judge ruled against him.