Claim: George Zimmerman was found dead in January 2016, several months after a Twitter controversy involving photographs of Trayvon Martin's body.
Example: [Collected via Twitter, January 2016]
Origin:On 21 January 2016 the web site Action News 3 published an article titled "George Zimmerman Found DEAD Months After Tweeting Pics Of Trayvon Martin's Dead Body," claiming:
On January 21 at 1:21 PM EST George Zimmerman was found dead in the backyard of his Florida home. Police say he was stabbed multiple times and had a gunshot wound to the head. A neighbor of Zimmerman said she heard a commotion, looked over the wall and saw him lifeless on the ground. That’s when she called 911.
The murder of George Zimmerman happened just months after his controversial September 2015 Twitter post spread across social media, angering many Trayvon supporters. Zimmerman retweeted a photo of Trayvon Martin’s lifeless body with criminal justice investigator standing above him. The original post was tweeted by one of the Zimmerman’s fans, praising him as “a one-man army.” Zimmerman, apparently flattered, retweeted the image.
The article concluded:
Police say, as of now, they have no leads in the murder of George Zimmerman. However, they are confident that his murder had everything to do with his postings on social media. Authorities say his constant bragging of the fact that he was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin finally caught up to him. “You can run if you want,” said police chief Robert Gordon. “But your wrongs will catch up to you eventually.”
On 27 September 2015, Zimmerman indeed made headlines when he re-tweeted a photograph of the lifeless body of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman shot and killed the teen in Sanford, Florida in February 2012, but was acquitted in July 2013 of a second-degree murder charge related to the shooting:
Zimmerman's public image took another hit in August and September of 2015, when he got into a Twitter spat with a user who threatened to slap him and responded with the taunt “We all know how it ended for the last moron that hit me. Give it a whirl cupcake” (a none-too-subtle reference to the Trayvon Martin shooting).
That was nothing compared to the furor that erupted when a Twitter user named @SeriousSlav tweeted a photograph of Trayvon Martin's dead body lying on the grass where Zimmerman had shot him, writing, “Z-Man is a one man army” — and Zimmerman had the audacity to retweet it[.]
While the portion about Zimmerman's social media activity was accurate, the claim that someone murdered him in January 2016 was not. Like many fake news web sites, Action News 3 bore no disclaimer informing readers that its content was fabricated, and featured many visual elements suggesting it was a legitimate local news web site.
Last updated: 22 January 2016
Originally published: 22 January 2016