This photo provided by the Sanford Police Department shows a police cruiser Tuesday, April 10, 2012, after it was shot in Sanford, Fla. Authorities say gunfire knocked out a window on the car parked near the townhome community in Florida where unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Sanford police told Orlando television station WKMG the cruiser was found with at least two bullet holes Tuesday morning after witnesses reported hearing at least six gunshots. (AP photo/Sanford Police Department)
FILE - This recent but undated file photo taken from the Orlando Sentinel's website shows George Zimmerman, according to the paper. Zimmerman is losing weight, suffering from high levels of stress and unable even to perform the simple task of buying a soda at a grocery store because of the intense public scrutiny he is under, his former lawyers say. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, File)
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SANFORD, Florida (AP) — The man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is said to be losing weight and suffering from high levels of stress from the intense public scrutiny he is under, his former lawyers said. Meanwhile, a special prosecutor said she will soon make an announcement in the case and the U.S. attorney general vowed separately to take action if evidence warrants it.
The two attorneys announced Tuesday they no longer were representing neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman because they haven't heard from him since Sunday.
Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense after following the teenager in a Florida a gated community outside Orlando on Feb. 26. He said he was returning to his truck when Martin attacked him and that he shot the unarmed teen during the fight. He wasn't arrested partly because of Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law.
The lack of an arrest has led to protests across the U.S. and spurred a debate about race and the laws of self-defense. Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic. Martin was black.
"He is largely alone. You might even say he is emotionally crippled by virtue of the pressure of this case," said Hal Uhrig, a former lawyer for Zimmerman. The protests against him and the profound isolation of going into hiding may have pushed him "a little bit over the edge," said Uhrig and his colleague, Craig Sonner.
"As of the last couple days, he has not returned phone calls, text messages or emails," Sonner said. "He's gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing or who he's talking to. I cannot go forward speaking to the public about George Zimmerman and this case as representing him because I've lost contact with him."
The attorneys said that, against their advice, Zimmerman contacted special prosecutor Angela Corey, who will decide if he should face charges, but prosecutors in her office refused to talk to him without his lawyers present.
"To handle it this way, suggests that he may not be in complete control of what's going on. We're concerned for his emotional and physical safety," Uhrig said.
A spokeswoman for Corey's office didn't respond to phone and email messages requesting comment, although late Tuesday Corey released a statement saying she would make an announcement on the case within 72 hours. The statement did not specify what new development in the case would be released.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder also said the Justice Department is conducting a thorough and independent review of the case after launching its own investigation three weeks ago. During comments before a civil rights organization founded by activist Rev. Al Sharpton, Holder said that preventing and combating youth violence and victimization is a top priority of his department.
"If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action," Holder said during the convention of Sharpton's National Action Network.
Zimmerman is unable to see a psychologist because he could be spotted, the attorneys said. He is anxious about possible charges if the special prosecutor believes he committed a crime, his former attorneys said.
Zimmerman's current lack of an attorney shouldn't affect the speed of Corey's decision-making since any decent lawyer would advise a client not to talk to prosecutors, said Roy Kahn, a defense attorney in Miami.
Sonner, the first attorney Zimmerman contacted after the shooting, said he agreed to take the case on a pro bono basis until Zimmerman it's determined if he's charged. He said he has never talked to Zimmerman face-to-face, only on the phone, and that the 28-year-old man has gone into hiding but that he believes he's still in the U.S.
Both attorneys said they'd be willing to represent him again if he asks.
Ben Crump, an attorney for Martin's family, said they're concerned that Zimmerman could be a flight risk if he is charged with a crime since his former attorneys don't know how to contact him.
Meanwhile, tensions were rising in the town of Sanford as townspeople awaited the prosecutor's decision. Someone shot up an unoccupied police car early Tuesday as it sat outside the neighborhood where Martin was killed. And a demonstration by college students closed the town's police station Monday.
Some residents said they worry there will be violence if Corey decides not to charge Zimmerman. Many in town believe she will announce her decision soon.
Zimmerman set up a website therealgeorgezimmerman.com to collect money from his supporters, but the attorneys didn't know about it until they started getting questions from the news media, Sonner said. They had worked with his father and others to set up a different account and when they started getting questions about the new site, Uhrig assumed it was "bogus."
Since then, they determined the site is legitimate.
Speaking Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show, Sonner and Uhrig defended going public with their decision to stop representing Zimmerman, saying they didn't feel it was right to speak for him when they weren't in touch with him. Sonner also said Zimmerman was hiding in a place "where he won't be found."