Jury finds man who shot at George Zimmerman guilty on three counts

SANFORD, Fla. — A jury found the man accused of shooting at George Zimmerman guilty Friday of attempted second-degree murder.

A jury made up of four women and two men began deliberations at about 2:30 p.m. after hearing a week of testimony, and the deliberations lasted nearly four hours.

Matthew Apperson was also found guilty on charges of shooting into an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault with a firearm.

Sentencing is set for October 17.

His charges stemmed from a 2015 road-rage incident involving Zimmerman on Lake Mary Boulevard.

The jury had the option to convict Apperson on a lesser charge of attempted manslaughter.

Apperson testified Thursday that he was acting in self-defense.

As it had in much of the trial, the 2012 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin took center stage Thursday.

Zimmerman is well-known for his arrest and acquittal in Martin’s death, in which Zimmerman claimed self-defense.

Zimmerman claimed that Apperson fired a handgun at him unprovoked; Apperson said he shot in self-defense.

Prosecutor Stewart Stone told the jury that he didn't believe Apperson was defending himself when he shot.

"There is nothing that Mr. Apperson did in his encounter with George Zimmerman on May 11, 2015, along Lake Mary Boulevard that was reasonable, prudent or cautious," he said.

Zimmerman's history and notoriety from the Martin case is what made Apperson jumpy during an altercation with Zimmerman months before the shooting, he testified Thursday.

Zimmerman pulled up next to him as he was driving in Lake Mary and threatened to shoot, Apperson said.

“I said, 'What are you going to do? Shoot me like you did that little kid?'” Apperson testified, adding that after a short exchange, Zimmerman answered his question. “He said, ‘By the way, I am going to kill you. I’m going to shoot you just like I shot Trayvon.’”

PREVIOUS STORY: Jury selection underway for Seminole County man accused of shooting at George Zimmerman

Apperson said he pulled into a gas station to call 911, and Zimmerman followed him.

“He pulled in behind me, in my parking space, blocking me in,” Apperson said.

A recording of the 911 call from the Sept. 9, 2015, incident was played in court.

“I got, frankly, a nut job following me and threatening to shoot me,” Apperson said on the call.

Zimmerman “peeled off” when Apperson went into the store to call 911, he told the dispatcher.

Apperson said he encountered Zimmerman on the road again in May 2015 and was terrified when he looked over into the man’s Honda Ridgeline on Lake Mary Boulevard.

Apperson did changed his story on the stand when he was questioned by his attorney.

Apperson admitted he grabbed his gun before ever seeing Zimmerman pull out his gun in May 2015.

“When you picked up your gun there was no imminent threat of bodily (harm) against you, correct?” Apperson’s attorney asked.

“Correct,” Apperson said.

Defense attorney Michael LaFay asked if Apperson believed that Zimmerman was getting ready to pull the trigger.

“I knew he was dangerous,” he replied, alluding to the Martin case. “I knew he was capable of carrying out the threats he made.”

Apperson said he responded a split second later.

“I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got to protect myself,’ so I pointed my gun and I shot,” he said. “These are split seconds we’re talking about here.

“I was scared to death. I thought I was going to get shot dead right there.”

He didn’t have a cellphone on him, so Apperson he pulled into the parking lot of his office complex and stopped the first person he saw, he said.

“I yelled, I screamed, ‘Please call 911,’” Apperson said. “’I just had a gun pointed right at my face.’”

Apperson’s testimony came after Zimmerman spent two days on the stand testifying against him.

Zimmerman took the stand three times during Apperson's trial and turned some heads Wednesday when he said he considered members of the Black Lives movement “terrorist cowards."

“You associated Mr. Apperson with the Black Lives Matter movement, is that correct?” defense attorney LaFay asked Wednesday.

“No, sir,” Zimmerman replied.

“The Black Lives Matter Movement started with your very own case with Trayvon Martin, correct?” LaFay asked.

“First of all, they’re terrorists, not a movement, as you have said now,” Zimmerman replied calmly. “I see them as terrorists, if you would like to address them correctly.”

LaFay tried to reiterate his question about the Martin case, but was interrupted by Zimmerman.

“I don’t believe the Black Lives Matter is a movement, sir, they’re terrorist cowards,” he said.

Stone argued that Apperson's testimony did not line up with the facts how Zimmerman's did.

LaFay scoffed at Stone's contention and Zimmerman's testimony, holding to the defense's stance that there was too much reasonable doubt to convict his client.

He characterized Zimmerman as a "belligerent, obnoxious liar who can't be trusted."

LaFay also poked holes in Zimmerman’s testimony.

“Mr. Zimmerman expands and contracts his memory like an accordion,” LaFay said.

"His latest and most recent casualty is the truth," LaFay said, apparently referring to the Martin shooting.

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