SANFORD, Fla. -- The man who shot and killed an unarmed black teen in a gated Florida community remains in hiding and in fear for his life, his attorney and friends said, as almost two dozen protests were held nationwide calling for his arrest.
Anger against neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman mounted Monday, a month after he shot Trayvon Martin, 17, in what he told police was an act of self-defense. The New Black Panthers, a militant group, set a bounty of $10,000 for Zimmerman's arrest, and a line of elected and civil rights leaders called Trayvon a "martyr" and his death an "assassination."
Twenty rallies were held Monday in cities from Atlanta to San Diego.
"He is one of the most reviled people in America at this moment, but we don't know enough about the case," says Frank Farley, a Temple University psychologist who studies extreme behavior. "Maybe he's a horrendous racist and murderer. Maybe not. This case has given a whole new meaning to guilty until proven innocent."
Farley and other legal experts decry what they call a rush to judgment in a case where not all the facts have been released. Zimmerman has not been charged with any crime.
In several television interviews Monday, Zimmerman's attorney, Craig Sonner, and his friend Joe Oliver, who is black, defended the 28-year-old man. They said he is not a racist. Police say Zimmerman is white; his father says he is Hispanic. Hispanics can be of any race.
Oliver said on ABC News' Good Morning America that Zimmerman has "virtually lost his life now." Oliver told NBC News' Today that Zimmerman cried for days after the shooting.
Trayvon's family said Monday that their son had recently been suspended from school for possessing traces of marijuana in his book bag. Authorities confirmed to the Associated Press that Trayvon did not have a juvenile offender record.
Details of the deadly night are trickling out. The Orlando Sentinel, citing unnamed police sources, reported Monday that Zimmerman says Trayvon punched him, climbed on top of him and slammed his head repeatedly into the sidewalk, leaving Zimmerman bloody and battered.
A Sanford, Fla., police statement said the newspaper story was "consistent" with evidence turned over to prosecutors. A police report says Zimmerman's back was wet as if he had been on the ground and he had a bloody nose. The report says Zimmerman said, "I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me."
Trayvon's family and attorney say Zimmerman was suspicious of the teen, who was on his way home from the store, because he was black. They say Zimmerman was the aggressor in the fight that led to Trayvon's death.
Little is known about Zimmerman, whose life has been turned upside-down since the shooting. He has moved out of his home. Police have been in touch with him but have not provided him with security, Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte said. Seminole State College, where Zimmerman had been taking classes, said they were withdrawing him from enrollment out of concern for his and others' safety.
Orlando attorney Jose Baez, who represented Casey Anthony, the young mother acquitted of killing her toddler in one of last year's most sensational trials, said it was appropriate for Zimmerman to avoid the spotlight.
"What he is doing right now is the right thing to do, mainly for his safety and for his case," Baez said.
More than 500 people crowded into the Sanford City Commission meeting Monday, prompting it to be moved from City Hall to the civic center, where Trayvon's father urged Zimmerman's arrest.
The city earlier in the day named Capt. Darren Scott, a 23-year veteran of the police force and an African American, as acting chief, following the decision by Police Chief Bill Lee, who is white, to step down temporarily in the face of criticism of the department's handling of the case.
Kimra Major-Morris, attorney for Trayvon's mother, said she had filed trademark applications for two slogans containing his name: "Justice for Trayvon" and "I am Trayvon." She denied any profit motive and said the move was intended to preserve the rights for "projects that will assist other families who experience similar tragedies."