George Zimmerman leaves the courtroom a free man after being found not guilty in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Florida, July 13, 2013. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges on Saturday for the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in this central Florida town in February of last year. (July 13, 2013)
ORLANDO, Florida — George Zimmerman, who was acquitted earlier this month of murder and manslaughter in the death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, helped rescue a family from an overturned vehicle in Florida last week, authorities said on Monday.
Zimmerman, 29, helped get them out of the overturned sport utility vehicle last Wednesday, barely four days after the not-guilty verdict, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office in central Florida said.
"He did not witness the crash. He rolled up on it after the fact and assisted in getting the family out of the vehicle," sheriff's spokeswoman Kim Cannaday said.
When a deputy arrived at the scene, two men, one of whom was identified as Zimmerman, had already helped get the parents and two children out of the vehicle, Cannaday said. The two men then left.
Cannaday said no one was injured. The family's identity and race were not immediately known.
Asked if Zimmerman was being called a hero, Cannaday said, "We're not going that far."
The verdict in the racially charged Martin case sparked protests in cities across the country, as well as calls to review Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law which allows persons in fear of their lives to use deadly force rather than retreat.
Zimmerman, who is part Hispanic, was the neighborhood watch captain in the Retreat at Twin Lakes community in Sanford at the time of the killing in February 2012.
Martin was a student at a Miami-area high school and a guest of one of the homeowners. He was walking back to the residence after buying snacks at a nearby convenience store when he was shot in the chest during a confrontation with Zimmerman.
Sanford police on Monday turned over all evidence in the case to the Orlando office of the FBI, including the gun used in the shooting, Sanford police said.
The U.S. Justice Department last week put a hold on the evidence pending an investigation into whether Zimmerman violated civil rights laws, requiring the evidence to be kept intact rather than returned.
Public opinion is evenly divided over the verdict, according to several recent polls. The Pew Research Center found that 39 percent of people surveyed were satisfied with the verdict and 42 percent were dissatisfied, with 19 percent having no opinion.
In the same poll published on Monday, 52 percent say race is getting more attention in the case than it merits, while 36 percent say the case raises important issues about race that need to be discussed.