updated 03/27/2012 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 03/28/2012 AT 8:00 AM ET
George Zimmerman is accused of doing the unthinkable: shooting an unarmed teenager during a routine neighborhood watch patrol.
The death of Trayvon Martin – and the police decision not to arrest Zimmerman – has devastated Martin’s parents, set off a nationwide debate, and prompted President Obama to speak out in unusually personal terms.
But a friend of Zimmerman says the Florida man is going through his own torment.
“He’s not the man that I knew before the shooting,” Joe Oliver tells PEOPLE in this week’s 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.”