APOPKA, FLORIDA – A former neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted of fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager earlier this year was charged with assault Monday after his girlfriend called deputies to the home where they were living and claimed he pointed a shotgun at her during an argument, authorities said.
Samantha Scheibe, called emergency services in the early afternoon to say that Zimmerman had smashed a glass table, threatened her with a shotgun and ultimately pushed her out of the house, according to an arrest report. After pushing her out, Zimmerman barricaded the door with furniture and refused to leave, saying that he would talk to police by phone, authorities said.
The arrest was the latest legal problem for Zimmerman since he was acquitted in July of criminal charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen. The case sparked accusations that Zimmerman had racially profiled Martin and led to nationwide debates over the so-called stand-your-ground self-defense laws in Florida and other states that cancel a person’s duty to retreat in the face of a serious physical attack.
“You point your gun at my fricking face,” Samantha Scheibe is heard telling Zimmerman on an emergency call. “Get out of my house. Do not push me out of my house. Please get out of my house.”
Seconds later, she told the dispatcher, “You kidding me? He pushed me out of my house and locked me out. . . . He knows how to do this. He knows how to play this game.”
Moments later, Zimmerman called emergency services from inside the barricaded house to tell his side of the story.
“I have a girlfriend, who for lack of a better word, has gone crazy on me,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman then said he never pulled a gun on his girlfriend, and that it was Scheibe who smashed a table at the home they shared. He also told the dispatcher that Scheibe was pregnant with their child and that she had decided she would raise the child on her own. When Zimmerman started to leave, “she got mad,” he said.
Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Dennis Lemma said at a news conference that Scheibe wasn’t pregnant.
Deputies used a key provided by Scheibe to unlock the door and they were able to push through the barricade of items, Lemma said.
“She was very concerned for her own safety especially having the weapon pointed at her and then being pushed out,” he said.
Lemma says Zimmerman was compliant and unarmed when deputies came to the house.
“The easiest way to describe it is rather passive. Clearly, he’s had the opportunity to encounter situations similar to this in the past,” he said.
Zimmerman was charged with domestic aggravated assault with a weapon, domestic battery and criminal mischief. His first court appearance was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. He will be housed in a single-person cell and guards will check on him hourly, Lemma added.
Scheibe told deputies that the ordeal started with a verbal argument and that she asked Zimmerman to leave the house. Her account in the arrest report says he began packing his belongings, including a shotgun and an assault rifle. She says she began putting his things in the living room and outside the house, and he became upset. At that point, the report says, he took the shotgun out of its case.
“Scheibe then advised Zimmerman that she was calling the police because she was nervous about why he pulled out the shotgun. Zimmerman then pointed the shotgun at Scheibe for a minute, and asked her if she really wanted to do that,” the report states. “Scheibe stepped back, at which time Zimmerman smashed a glass coffee table, belonging to Scheibe, with the butt of the shotgun.”
Zimmerman told his girlfriend to leave and smashed a pair of her sunglasses as she walked toward the front door, the report says. Scheibe told deputies that he pushed her out of the house when she got close to the door.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the Martin family, was at Harvard Law School on Monday with the teen’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, to speak at a symposium about his legacy and self-defense laws.
Crump said they found out about Zimmerman’s arrest from television reports. He said the news of the arrest didn’t affect their mood because they are focused on discussing ways to reform self-defense laws.
“They’re focused on how we can all better deal with conflict resolution. But there is a certain irony in that while they were doing that, at basically the same time that incident was happening with their son’s killer,” Crump said in a phone interview.
Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense when he shot Martin in February 2012. He wasn’t charged until 44 days after the shooting, leading to protests nationwide from people who believed he should have been immediately arrested.
Demonstrations also broke out again after his acquittal. Federal authorities are now reviewing the case the see if Martin’s civil rights were violated.
Neither Mark O’Mara nor Don West — Zimmerman’s defense attorneys during the trial of the Martin case — is currently representing him, a spokesman for O’Mara said.
Scheibe’s neighbors said it was frightening to learn that Zimmerman had been living nearby.
“Just when you thought you heard the last of George Zimmerman,” said neighbor Catherine Cantrell. She said she had twice seen a man who looked like Zimmerman get out of a truck that’s been in the driveway for nearly a month. The truck parked there Monday appeared to be the same one that reporters have seen Zimmerman drive previously.
“I’m in absolute shock. He was never outside. It’s not like he was out flaunting around,” she said.
Cantrell said Scheibe was very sweet and quiet.
Zimmerman has had other brushes with the law since his acquittal.
Zimmerman and his estranged wife were involved in a domestic dispute in September just days after Shellie Zimmerman filed divorce papers, but police later said no charges were filed against either of them because of a lack of evidence.
Zimmerman has also been pulled over three times for traffic stops since his acquittal. He was ticketed for doing 60 mph (96 kph) in a 45 mph (72 kph) zone in Lake Mary in September and was given a warning by a state trooper along Interstate 95 for having a tag cover and windows that were too darkly tinted. He was also stopped near Dallas in July and was given a warning for speeding.