(SANFORD, Fla.) — George Zimmerman can’t get back the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin, but nothing is keeping him from purchasing another gun if he wants, Florida police said on Friday.
Federal and local authorities said plans to return Zimmerman’s Kel Tec 9 pistol were put on hold after the Department of Justice announced a new investigation to determine whether Zimmerman violated 17-year-old Martin’s civil rights.
“The Department of Justice put a hold on all of the evidence in the case. The evidence will not be returned until such time as they release the hold,” said Sanford, Fla., Police spokesman James McAuliffe.
McAuliffe, however, told ABC News that there is nothing legally preventing Zimmerman, who was acquitted in Martin’s murder on Saturday, from purchasing a new firearm.
“I do not believe that there is” any legal reason Zimmerman would not be able to purchase another gun, McAuliffe said.
Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury of six women who found that he acted in self-defense when he shot the unarmed teenager in February 2012.
The verdict produced an outcry ranging from Martin’s parents to protests in cities across the country. Zimmerman, 29, immediately went into hiding following the verdict.
On Sunday, Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara said Zimmerman was entitled to get the gun back and needed it “even more” than before his acquittal, given the controversy surrounding the case and frequent threats to his life.
“I think that he feels truly in his heart that if he did not have that weapon that night he might not be here. … [He] would have continued to get beat even though he was screaming for help,” O’Mara told ABC News in an exclusive interview last week.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Holder called Martin’s death “unnecessary” and vowed to proceed with a federal case.
Martin’s attorney was travelling and not available for comment on the decision to retain all evidence pending DOJ orders.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN
Stephanie Elam, CNN
Eli Watkins, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN