A pit bull named Big Boi began menacing George and Shellie Zimmerman in the fall of 2009, according to a Reuters report. The report cites that Zimmerman’s wife was "cornered" by Big Boi in their Sanford, Florida, gated community, and George made a phone complaint to the dog’s owner at that time.
On a second occasion, Big Boi intimidated Zimmerman’s mother-in-law’s dog, so George called Seminole County Animal Services and bought pepper spray for protection. Big Boi apparently broke out again and was running loose, prompting Zimmerman to get pepper spray and make another call to Animal Services. This time an animal control officer responded, according to County records, Reuters reports.
Zimmerman and his wife were told by a friend, “"Don't use pepper spray. It'll take two or three seconds to take effect, but a quarter second for the dog to jump you.”
He advised George Z, "Get a gun!"
And he did! In November 2009, the Zimmermans both completed firearms training and received concealed-weapons gun permits. In early December, another source close to them told Reuters, the couple bought a pair of guns. George picked a Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm handgun, a popular, lightweight weapon.
Although Reuters states that few people knew Zimmerman carried a gun, apparently word got around to Big Boi that his neighbor was packing, because there is no report that Zimmerman ever saw the dog after that. From the reports of Big Boi's behavior, his appearance may have been scary, but there's no indication he showed any aggression. So, was Zimmerman overreacting a little by arming himself and his wife in "self defense?"
By June 2011, Big Boi was no longer the center of Zimmerman's attention as a wave of robberies rattled the community, called the Retreat at Twin Lakes, according to Reuters. The homeowners association asked George to launch a neighborhood watch, and Zimmerman began to carry the Kel-Tec on his regular, dog-walking patrol - a violation of neighborhood watch guidelines but not a crime.
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On February 26, George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed black teenager named Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman claims it was self defense.