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Zimmerman verdict draws mixed reactions in Tampa Bay area

George Zimmerman's acquittal late Saturday sparked mixed, emotional reaction across Tampa Bay.

Tonika Witchard, 25, waited for the verdict at a St. Petersburg bar on First Avenue S, scrolling through Twitter on her Samsung Galaxy phone. When two words — NOT GUILTY — appeared on TV screens above, she thought of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's family. She thought of her own.

"I want to cry for them," the St. Petersburg College student said. "It is terrible. It doesn't make sense. It's like, 'What if it happened to me?' What if we had to go through that pain?"

Joe Sullivan, 38, who works for a St. Petersburg financial company, said the jury's decision reinforces gun rights.

"As a concealed weapons permit holder," he said, "I can walk around freely with my weapon and I don't feel I have to second-guess myself if I'm in a position where I have to defend myself."

Sophie Smith, a Seminole teacher, watched the verdict on TV at St. Petersburg's World of Beer.

"I don't believe Zimmerman had the intent to kill. I'm glad he's not guilty," said Smith, 38. "I believe he was an innocent man. It was a bad situation."

Downtown, 30-year-old Eunitee Franklin feared the possibility of riots.

"Something's going to happen," the Clearwater musician said. "How can you possibly say not guilty? How can you play it off like this man did not kill a kid? I think it's sad. So sad for Trayvon's family."

In a liquor store in lower-income Tampa Heights, a small group of patrons unanimously reacted with shock.

Jackie Poe went running into the parking lot to call relatives in Delaware and commiserate over what they agreed was a travesty.

"It should've ended when the cops told him to stay in his car," said Poe, 54. "How the hell they can let a man get away with murder, I don't know."

Cynthia Wenzelburger, 49, agreed the verdict was wrong.

Wenzelburger, a paralegal, was not impressed by the job Zimmerman's defense attorneys did and was surprised it held sway with the jury. Wenzelburger said she thought the trial was won in jury selection, when six woman were selected.

"We're more prone to leniency, when it comes to sending someone to prison," she said.

Zimmerman verdict draws mixed reactions in Tampa Bay area 07/13/13 [Last modified: Sunday, July 14, 2013 1:01am]
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