By Colleen Jenkins
(Reuters) - Bidding in an online auction for the pistol George Zimmerman used in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin topped $65 million on Friday, though the amount appeared to be inflated by fake buyers with names such as "Racist McShootFace."
Zimmerman drew wide criticism on Thursday after announcing the sale of the gun, a Kel-Tec PF9 9mm, which the former neighborhood watch volunteer described in the auction listing as "an American Firearm Icon" that he used to defend his life and "end the brutal attack" from Martin four years ago.
The death of the 17-year-old black teenager in Florida sparked nationwide civil rights protests and debate over "stand your ground" laws, which allow people to use deadly force without a duty to retreat if they are in fear of being harmed. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the case.
On Friday morning, bidders in the auction on the United Gun Group's website included "shaniqua bonifa" and "Tamir Rice," the same name as the 12-year-old black boy shot dead by a white police officer in Cleveland in 2014.
USA Today reported that the bid by "Racist McShootFace" was later deleted.
The auction began Thursday afternoon after the first site on which Zimmerman attempted to sell the gun rejected the listing. The site, GunBroker.com, said in a statement it wanted no part in the auction or the attendant publicity.
A listing for the gun then appeared on UnitedGunGroup.com, with a starting price of $5,000.
"United Gun Group’s stance is that as long as Mr. Zimmerman ... is obeying the letter of the law, his personal firearm sale will be permitted on our network," the group said on its Facebook page.
Some U.S. media said the listing was taken down Thursday night, but the auction was active on Friday and had received slightly more than 1,000 bids.
In the listing, Zimmerman said he would use money from the sale to counter violence against law enforcement officers by Black Lives Matter, a movement that grew out of Martin's shooting. Proceeds would also go toward fighting Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's "anti-firearm rhetoric," Zimmerman said.
The listing closed with a Latin phrase, "Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum," that translates to "if you wish peace, prepare for war."
A lawyer for Martin's family called the auction offensive but said it would not distract the family from their work advocating against gun violence.
(Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)