Reuters has put together a pretty sympathetic background piece about George Zimmerman, one that sets out to paint a "more nuanced" picture of him than his critics have painted. It depicts him not as some gun-toting yahoo with a Dirty Harry complex, but more as a guy who was drawn by happenstance down the path that led to Trayvon Martin.
We learn, for example, that Zimmerman first got a gun not to shoot people, but because a neighborhood pit bull kept getting loose, and an animal control officer warned that pepper spray wouldn't be enough to keep the dog at bay. Then there was the rash of neighborhood robberies, and witnesses identified the culprits as young black males. So (the article implies) it wasn't irrational for Zimmerman to suspect an unfamiliar young black male of being up to no good.
This is valuable reporting. With the exception of true psychopaths, people who are demonized almost always turn out to be surprisingly human, and one mission of journalism is to help us appreciate that fact--to help us put ourselves in the shoes of "the other."
Who knows, for example, how I'd react if there was a sense of siege in my neighborhood--with property values plummeting and reason to believe that a crime wave was partly responsible? Maybe, when you read the Reuters piece, you'll think Zimmerman's environment was sufficiently menacing to justify doing what the piece says he did: routinely violate "neighborhood watch" guidelines by carrying a gun on his patrols.