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Zimmerman: 'I'm not a racist and I'm not a murderer'

George Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, above, on Feb. 26. He has been charged with second-degree murder.
George Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, above, on Feb. 26. He has been charged with second-degree murder.NBC News

In a television interview in which he walked through his version of what happened the night he killed Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman said he does not regret being armed, nor does he regret his actions.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin, an unarmed black teenager, on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The case has become the focus of national media, and ignited an emotional debate over race and gun rights.

The son of a white father and Peruvian mother of Hispanic descent, Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. He says he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin attacked him. He is currently out on bail.

"When I was in jail obviously, in solitary confinement, I had a lot of time to think and reflect," he said. "I just think it’s a tragic situation I hope it’s the most difficult thing I’ll ever go through in my life."

Zimmerman explained in an exclusive interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity that he was headed to Target that Sunday night for his weekly grocery shopping.

"Sunday after we mentored the kids, we would go grocery shopping for cooking for the week, so I wanted to go to Target," he said. "That's the last time I've been home."

Zimmerman said that he was motivated to become a volunteer neighborhood watch after a robbery in their gated community. Robbers broke into the home of a young woman with a 9-month-old baby -- the woman then barricaded herself in an upstairs bedroom, Zimmerman said. His wife saw the robbers run through their backyard.

"Even though my wife wasn't certain what happened, that was enough to scare her," he said. "I promised her I would do what I could to be safe."

On Feb. 26, Zimmerman said that he saw a young man – later identified as Martin -- acting suspiciously when he first saw him. It was raining, and Martin, he said, was cutting between houses.

“He was walking very leisurely for the weather,” Zimmerman said. “It didn’t look like he was a resident.”

Nor, he said, did Martin look like “a fitness fanatic that would train in the rain.” 

In fact, Martin was visiting his father and his father’s girlfriend. He was returning from the corner store, where he had purchased Skittles and a can of AriZona watermelon drink.

At the time, Zimmerman told the police dispatcher that Martin was running away from him. But in Wednesday night’s interview, he said that Zimmerman was “skipping, going away quickly. He wasn’t running out of fear.”

Zimmerman said that Martin then approached him out of the blue and delivered a single punch to his nose, breaking it and asking, allegedly, what Zimmerman’s problem was.

Zimmerman said he replied, “I don’t have a problem.”

“I don’t remember if I went immediately to the ground, or if he pushed me,” Zimmerman continued.

“He was straddled on me with his full weight and whenever I would sit up that’s when he would take the opportunity to punch me and continue to hit my nose,” Zimmerman said.

He said Martin was cursing at him, telling him to shut up and telling him that he was going to kill him.

Zimmerman said he eventually shimmied to be able to reach his gun. Martin, he said, spotted the gun.

“At that point, I realized that it wasn’t my gun, it wasn’t his gun. It was the gun,” Zimmerman said. “He said, ‘You’re gonna die, mother-f------.”

He said he felt Martin’s hand go down his chest, toward his holster.

“It just happened so quickly,” Zimmerman said. But, he said, “I didn’t think I hit him.”

When Hannity asked if Zimmerman had any regrets, he replied, “No, sir.”

“I feel like it was all God’s plan for me,” Zimmerman said in response to Hannity’s question about the aftermath of the killing.

Hannity asked Zimmerman about the first time the two spoke by phone. Zimmerman at the time was armed and alone in a hotel room, Hannity said, and didn’t have an attorney.

“Where were you mentally then? When I was talking to you, I was concerned,” Hannity said. 

“So was I,” Zimmerman said.  “I was talking daily to one state police officer that had legitimate concerns for my safety. My wife, I asked her to stay in Florida. I was out of state.”

“I’m not a racist and I’m not a murderer,” Zimmerman said.

He also again apologized to Trayvon Martin’s parents.

“I would tell them that again, I’m sorry," Zimmerman said. "I don’t have -- my wife and I don’t have any children. I have nephews that I love more than life. I love them more than myself. And I know when they were born, it was a different, unique bond and love that I have with them. And I love my children even though they aren’t born yet. And I am sorry that they buried their child. I can’t imagine what it must feel like. And I pray for them daily.”

Phyllis Kotey, a legal expert who has followed the case, said there were several possible strategic reasons for O'Mara to allow his client to appear on national television.

"Clearly they are trying to humanize (Zimmerman) some more and give his story some traction," said Kotey, a former judge and prosecutor who now teaches at Florida International University College of Law.

She noted that in a television appearance, Zimmerman can speak without the risk of cross-examination by the prosecution.

"Every time he does something public like this, he has an opportunity to get information to the potential jurors without having to take the stand," Kotey said.

The interview was taped on Wednesday morning and broadcast later Wednesday evening. Fox News said no payment was made for the interview. 

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