SANFORD, Fla. — George Zimmerman was set to auction the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin four years ago, he told a Florida TV station.
But mysteriously, when the auction was slated to begin, the weapon vanished from the website, replaced by a note that read, “Sorry, but the item you have requested is no longer in the system.”
Searches for Zimmerman and Trayvon, which earlier Thursday morning had yielded information about the gun and its sale, returned no results.
CNN attempts to reach the auction site were not immediately successful. Reached via phone, Zimmerman told CNN, “Thanks for the call. I’m not speaking to media right now,” and hung up.
A jury acquitted Zimmerman in the death of Martin, an unarmed African-American teen, after he claimed self-defense.
Since his acquittal in 2013, Zimmerman has made news several times, including an arrest in a domestic violence case. Prosecutors dropped the charges after his girlfriend refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Zimmerman made headlines again Wednesday, this time for an ad posted on a firearm-auctioning website, GunBroker.
The post listed the weapon purportedly used to kill Martin at a starting bid of $5,000.
“I am honored and humbled to announce the sale of an American firearm icon,” the post said. “The firearm for sale is the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012.”
The post bragged about the gun’s popularity, describing it as a “piece of American history.”
But while the auction site said many museums, including the Smithsonian Institution, have “expressed interest in owning and displaying the firearm,” the Washington-based Smithsonian released a statement saying, “We have never expressed interest in collecting George Zimmerman’s firearm, and have no plans to ever collect or display it in any museums.”
‘I’m a free American’
In an interview with WOFL-TV in Orlando, Zimmerman said he decided to sell the weapon and move past it.
“I recently received it back from the Department of Justice,” he said. “They took it after my trial, after I was exonerated.”
Zimmerman told the station he has had death threats since he put the gun up for sale.
“What I’ve decided to do is not cower,” he said. “I’m a free American. I can do what I want with my possessions.”
Proceeds from the gun’s sale were supposed to be used to “fight [Black Lives Matter] violence against law enforcement officers,” according to the post that has now disappeared.
Martin’s family: Focus is on ending gun violence
Martin’s family earlier declined to comment on the purported sale of the gun, saying the Trayvon Martin Foundation is focused on ending gun violence in the United States.
“This election season, we are laser focused on furthering that mission,” Martin’s family said in a statement.
“As such, the foundation has no comment on the actions of that person.”
The former neighborhood watch volunteer admitted to shooting Martin in February 2012 but said he was defending himself after the teenager attacked him.
His acquittal sparked nationwide debate and protests in a case that was racially charged from the start.
Critics of the verdict have described Zimmerman as an overzealous wannabe police officer who racially profiled Martin and shot him down.
The gun auction was set to start at 11 a.m. Thursday, according to the post.
Atlanta-based GunBroker, which bills itself as the largest online auction site for firearms and accessories, was founded in 1999, the same year eBay prohibited the sale of firearms and ammunition. The company reported a boon in 2007 when eBay updated its policy, following the Virginia Tech massacre, to forbid the sale of certain firearm parts.
For the last two years, it has drawn between 4.4 million and 6.9 million unique visitors a month, mostly drawing from a demographic of white, Republican, American, college-educated men 35 years of age and older, according to Quantcast, which measures website analytics. In November 2012, GunBroker announced it had surpassed $2 billion in sales.
There were more than 167,000 guns for sale on the site Thursday.