In the height of the national outcry over the shooting of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman hid out for over a month in nearby Lake Mary at the home of a man prosecutors say is federal law-enforcement agent — a former Seminole County Sheriff’s deputy who was pressured to quit after he was duped by a con artist.
He was the friend who taught Zimmerman how to shoot and hosted his graduation party. As lesser acquaintances granted television interview after television interview, Mark Osterman never showed his face even as he offered shelter to a friend in need just when he had become one of the most controversial people in America.
In the summary of the friend’s interview with the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement released Thursday by the Duval County state attorney, the name and occupation of the friend is blacked out. But one memo in the 300 pages identifies him as an air marshal, and the interview he gave provides enough detail about the relationship to reasonably confirm his identity.
He told authorities that his wife presided over Zimmerman’s wedding. Zimmerman’s marriage certificate lists Sondra Osterman as the person who presided over the ceremony. Sondra Osterman’s Facebook profile shows she’s married to Mark, who posted that he travels for a living and works for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Among his Facebook likes: “Support George Zimmerman.”
Reached Friday morning by The Miami Herald, Osterman declined to be interviewed. “No thanks,” he said, before hanging up.
Osterman, 44, met Zimmerman around 2006, through his wife, Sondra, who worked with Zimmerman at a mortgage-services company. Zimmerman was a loan originator, Sondra Osterman a loan processor. They later worked together at a different company, Digital Risk.
In his interview with the FBI and FDLE, Mark Osterman said he visited Zimmerman’s house some 50 times. The two men went shooting together about once a month.
“He described Zimmerman as a person of strong character, but not very street wise,” the report states. “He has never known Zimmerman to be in a fist fight. Zimmerman stays in casual contact with a lot of people, but is not known to have any other close friends.”
They became such friends that Osterman hosted a graduation party for Zimmerman when he said he completed his associate’s degree in criminal justice at Seminole State College. Osterman, the report notes, “did not see the diploma.”
Zimmerman was actually just a course or two shy from graduating, and was expelled from the college when the shooting scandal exploded.
Osterman was among the people agents interviewed in a quest to determine whether Zimmerman showed any racist tendencies. Like the other co-workers, neighbors and old flames the agents questioned, Osterman said Zimmerman did not ever associate with racists. Zimmerman, he added, also never did drugs.
An air marshal’s role in the former neighborhood watch volunteer’s life could become significant as the case progresses: Osterman is the one Zimmerman’s wife Shellie first called for help the night he shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. Osterman went to the crime scene with her, but said he did not speak “in depth” with either Zimmerman or the officers.