The attorney who helped murder defendant George Zimmerman win a controversial acquittal last month was frustrated to learn his client toured a gun factory on Thursday.
According to TMZ, the former neighborhood crime watchman visited Kel-Tec firearms, the company that manufactured the semi-automatic handgun Zimmerman used in the fatal confrontation with Trayvon Martin.
“We certainly would not have advised him to go to the factory that made the gun that he used to shoot Trayvon Martin through the heart,” Shawn Vincent, a spokesman for attorney Mark O’Mara, told Yahoo News. “That was not part of our public relations plan.”
News of Zimmerman’s visit to the gunmaker comes just six weeks after a jury found him not guilty in the 2012 shooting death of Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Sanford, Fla. The trial was televised to a wide audience, and his acquittal led to nationwide protests and prompted President Barack Obama to speak out on the case.
According to the TMZ story, Zimmerman got a personal tour of the Cocoa, Fla., facility from the son of Kel-Tec’s founder and owner. The story includes a picture of Zimmerman and a man wearing a Kel-Tec shirt. TMZ says it was taken on the assembly plant floor. The entertainment website reported that Zimmerman inquired about purchasing a tactical shotgun; however Kel-Tec’s website says the company doesn’t sell firearms directly to the public.
Late Friday afternoon, Kel-Tec sent Yahoo News a statement “concerning this leaked bit of information by someone unassociated with Kel-Tec.”
“He simply wanted to see the manufacturing facility,” the statement said of Zimmerman’s visit. “This is a common occurrence with our customer base that live close by or may be traveling through.”
The statement implied that Zimmerman specifically inquired about a tactical shotgun he is apparently interested in purchasing.
“The Kel-Tec KSG is one of the most desired products in the industry, and can be very difficult to acquire due to supply and demand,” the company said. “Many individuals like to come by the plant to actually see the product and how it is made.”
Kel-Tec, one of the country’s largest producers of handguns, said it did not want to gain recognition because of Martin’s death.
“Kel-Tec’s thoughts and prayers go out to everyone whose lives were forever changed,” the statement said.
At trial, Zimmerman’s defense team argued that their client killed Martin in self defense when the teen began beating him. The gun involved in the shooting is now with the U.S. Justice Department, which is reviewing the case for possible federal charges. Attorneys have said that Zimmerman, who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon in Florida, planned to continue to arm himself because of threats against his life.
“Security is, has been, and continues to be of great concern to every member of our family for obvious reasons,” his brother, Robert Zimmerman, wrote in an email to Yahoo News.
O’Mara still represents Zimmerman on sanctions his firm filed against Florida prosecutors for allegedly withholding case discovery, and in a defamation lawsuit against NBC News. Vincent says O’Mara and Zimmerman are in contact about once a week.
“From that perspective, we are George’s legal representation, but I don’t think he takes our advice on how he lives his life or what factories he decides to tour,” Vincent told Yahoo News. “We represented him in court. We got the verdict that we believe is just, and the rest of George’s life is up to George.”
But Vincent acknowledged that the timing of the factory tour was not well planned, especially since Zimmerman has become a lightning rod in the debate on gun and self defense rights.
“If you’re a public figure and you represent people’s opinion on those issues, then what you do in context is important for sure,” Vincent said.
Robert Zimmerman made no apologies for his brother’s visit to Kel-Tec.
“Every criminal defendant is presumed innocent until or unless proven guilty,” he wrote to Yahoo News. “When a defendant is acquitted the presumption of innocence is maintained in our society. George is a free man and as such is entitled to visit, tour, frequent or patronize any business or locale he wishes.”