Under Fire About Trayvon Martin, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Steps Down Temporarily
The head of the Sanford police force has temporarily stepped down in the wake of mounting public anger over the department’s handling of the killing of Trayvon Martin. Bill Lee, the head of the police force, made the announcement today.
Sanford, Fla. Police Chief Bill Lee said Thursday he will temporarily step aside as public anger mounts over the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
Lee said it has become obvious to him that he had become a "distraction" in the case and that he would "temporarily remove himself" from his position. Sanford's city manager said that he would seek an interim police chief.
The resignation comes a day after the Sanford City Commission delivered a vote of “no confidence” in Lee by a 3-2 margin.
Lee’s department has been in the national spotlight since the death of Martin, who was killed by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, as Martin walked to his father’s house. Zimmerman was not arrested, claiming “self-defense” under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
The Miami Herald detailed other missteps made by Lee and his police force that have fueled the calls for Lee's ouster:
The many missteps in the Trayvon Martin investigation that may cost this small town’s police chief his job started with semantics.
The boy’s father says police depicted George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot an unarmed Miami Gardens teenager while on his nightly patrol, as “squeaky clean.” Then Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee told an Orlando TV station that the gunman didn’t have a criminal record — technically true: Charges in the shooter’s 2005 felony arrest, which the chief did not mention, had been dropped...
Phone records have not yet been inspected, witnesses’ calls were allegedly not returned and the criminal record of the shooter was not checked until the morning after the shooting — what experts call examples of sloppy police work that undermined the police department’s credibility and could hamper a future prosecution. Together, gaffes big and small helped foster Trayvon’s family’s belief that investigators were out to protect the accused.
“Basically, from day one, we didn’t feel that the police were doing a thorough investigation,” said Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, a Miami-Dade truck driver. “They were taking Zimmerman’s word that he didn’t murder our son.”