George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, is not a racist and is devastated by the recent events, according to a friend.
The Feb. 26 death of Martin, and the Sanford, Fla., police department's decision not to arrest Zimmerman, has turned the case into a national obsession.
It has devastated Martin's parents, sparked widespread debate over racial profiling, gun rights and self-defense laws. President Obama even weighed in.
Almost entirely silent throughout the firestorm of the last month? The neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed the 17-year-old.
There has been near-universal backlash, and some might say heavy media bias against Zimmerman, who friends say is going through his own torment.
"He's not the man that I knew before the shooting," Joe Oliver tells People in its cover story. "He's a completely different man; he'll never be the same."
"He prays for Trayvon and he prays for the Martin family. He is so distraught that he took a life. That's the price he had to pay for saving his own."
Oliver says he stands behind his friend, who says Martin was the aggressor in the self-defense slaying, and who he insists is not a racist human being.
"He's not a racist," says Oliver, an African-American. "I wouldn't be speaking out on his behalf if he were. This didn't have anything to do with race."
"George was looking out for his neighborhood and he saw someone he didn't recognize acting suspiciously. In his mind, he shot in self-defense."
"He felt he had no other choice."