ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – A Florida man was found guilty on Friday of attempted murder for shooting at George Zimmerman during a roadside confrontation with the ex-neighborhood watch captain widely known for killing unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, local media reported.
Matthew Apperson, 37, who according to prosecutors has a history of mental illness, was convicted in a jury trial in the Orlando suburb of Sanford, Florida, according to accounts by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper and 24-hour Orlando television news channel News 13.
A Sanford jury in 2013 acquitted Zimmerman, 32, of murder in the fatal 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Martin, a case that helped spark the Black Lives Matter movement and overshadowed both Apperson’s prosecution and his defense.
Police asserted in their arrest affidavit for Apperson that he seemed to have a fixation on Zimmerman, who claimed to have acted in self-defense when he shot Martin, a high school student walking through the community after stopping at a convenience store. Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, citing Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law.
Apperson’s lawyer in turn questioned Zimmerman on the witness stand, getting Zimmerman to acknowledge that he had sold the gun used to shoot Martin for $250,000 and considers Black Lives Matter activists to be “terrorists,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
In addition to second-degree attempted murder, Apperson was convicted on charges of shooting into an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault with a firearm stemming from his altercation with Zimmerman in Lake Mary, Florida, according to the Sentinel.
Apperson has been in custody since July 2015, when Seminole County Circuit Judge Debra Nelson revoked his bond following a complaint that he urinated on his neighbor’s porch.
In that incident, Apperson was found guilty of disorderly conduct at trial in October 2015, and sentenced to 60 days in jail with credit for time served, according to court records.
(Reporting by Barbara Liston in Orlando; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bernard Orr)