March 22nd, 2012
03:45 PM ET

Sanford police chief 'temporarily' steps down

Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said he must "temporarily remove myself" from duty, a day after the City Commission voted 3-2 in favor of a nonbinding measure of no confidence in him.

"My role as the leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation …." Lee said during a news conference.

He added, "I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to the city, which has been in turmoil for several weeks."

Lee had come under fire following concerns that his police department did not adequately handle the fatal shooting last month of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Martin was shot February 26 while walking to the house of his father's fiancee after a trip to a convenience store. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader, said he shot the unarmed 17-year-old in self-defense.

Following the shooting, thousands of people tweeted out Lee's photo and phone number asking them to flood him with calls because they believed his department had not properly investigated the case. Many of those people believed Zimmerman should have been arrested for the shooting.

"It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process," Lee said.

Zimmerman has not been arrested. Police say they have not charged Zimmerman because they have no evidence to contradict his story that he shot in self-defense, leading to a new debate over a controversial state law.

Florida's deadly force law, also called "stand your ground," allows people to meet "force with force" if they believe that there is danger of serious harm to themselves or someone else.

Lee said he continued to stand by the police department as well as their investigation into Martin's death.

A Seminole County grand jury will convene on the matter April 10, according to State Attorney Norm Wolfinger.

FULL STORY
soundoff (480 Responses)
  1. RillyKewl

    Better not be "temporarily"!
    This is not someone who can continue a career in law enforcement.
    Maybe he should sign up for clown college.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      I'm curious what you think he did that was wrong? Keep in mind that these guys enforce the laws, not make them. If you disagree with how the law is written, shouldn't it be the politicians you're mad at, and not the police?

      March 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMcGee

      Gary, it's not just the law – it's that the police did not investigate and took Zimmerman at his word. Did not take him in to be questioned or processed, did not take the gun, left Trayvon's body in the morgue for three days without notifying family (and they had his phone). Led witnesses with their questions to support Zimmerman's statement, and then would not release the 911 calls until Trayvon's family filed a lawsuit almost a month later.

      March 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. EJ

    I'm sure Zimmerman's going to jail, so I don't waste time on that. The issue I have is, who speaks for the deceased in such a case? The FL law is seriously flawed, probably purposefully.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • sum

      we were discussing this law in class..it is very flawed!! now Alex, if this supposedly happened to Zimmerman, then I will speak for Trayvon...He was executing Florida's Law...a fat male following him and approaching him w violence. Trevon just know how to defend his honor without any weapons. Apparently Zimmerman is mentally and physically impaired. He didn't listen to the law when instructed to not follow Trayvon (mental issues). He still approches him without authority to do so...rest my case...

      March 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ted Ryder

    I'm heading down to Sanford, renting out a house with my AK-47 and three 150 round chinese magazines. No one breaks in, no problems. Otherwise, I will be forced to stand my ground.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Franky

      Apparently you don't have to break in, you could just be walking home minding your own business and that's enough reason for someone to shoot you, if they "feel threatened" , you know after you are following them and asking them why are they there, and they threateningly ask you, "why are you following me". I know next time I'm following someone and they ask why I'm following them, I'm blowing their head off, I should be able to follow them in peace!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • I kill people

      And knowing that you possess such a weapon, if I see you look at me funny, I just might have to shoot first.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    Important fact no one knows....How long was the shooter working at this location and did the victim know what he did there? HUMMMMM

    March 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vicky

      The shooter didn't work there. He lived there. He was a self appointed neighborhood watch leader. He followed the victim and confronted him.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clint

      He wasn't "working"! He wasn't even a registered vounteer for the neighborhood watch! The police didn't even take this guys gun for evidence? Even Police officers have to submit their firearm after a shooting! This police department is going to have a major over haul.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. esoteric1

    He is to stupid to be a policeman

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Hey genius, while you're calling people stupid, the word you were so eloquently searching for, is "too".

      March 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      That's for sure.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rob.k

    reverse racism is just as bad as racism...while i disagree with that law, it is law there. he did nothing legally wrong to be arrested... America don't hate blacks anymore, its middle easterns too much of us hate.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • jay dee

      there is no such thing as "reverse racism", but im sure your too d umb to understand the concept/definition of Racism....

      March 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • c

      Did you know that since becoming President, Barack Obama has gotten 400% more death threats than G Bush (according the Secret Service public reports) Bet you a buck all the white people out there aren't buying guns to protect themselves from criminals like Zimmenrman says he was.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • TD

      There needs to be evidence that he was threatened or in danger for his life. Just saying so is not enough. It's like a cop saying he wants to come into your house and search it because he thinks there might be something illegal inside. He needs to have reasonable cause, something that can be deemed credible, and something specific he is looking for. While a can of iced tea can hurt if thrown at someone, it's hard for me to grasp that his intentions were to harm someone with tea and Skitles. The Florida law does not cover Zimmerman in this case without proof that his life was in danger. Further, Zimmerman put himself there by following him against recommendations. One could agrue that he put himself in the dangerous situation and therefore not standing his ground, but rather trying to take the ground of others. That is being a bully.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Essie

      @rob.k....First of all, why are you hating anyone for that matter?! About time someone told the truth that blacks have been hated! Not that I needed you to tell me something that "everybody" already knows!!! STOP HATING & LEARN HOW TO LOVE! ...IT WORKS!

      March 22, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bett

    Is Bill Lee still getting paid? Why?

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • RillyKewl

      good question.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ProfS

    Zimmerman freaks Martin out by following him, then he provokes the whole thing, and then shoots the kid for no reason. What a joke this police dept is. they should have arrested him on the spot. What did you expect, Martin to answer the questions of a complete stranger, who freaked him out by following him?...the kid should have been armed so he could've taken care of this freak...

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • TD

      So you want kids under the age of 18 to be allowed to carry firearms? Interesting.....

      March 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff G

    Thank GOD! he needs to be fired in the mean time.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Gary

    What a shame. The chief did nothing wrong. You can't arrest/convict because of emotion, or because your gut tells you something was done. They are law ENFORCEMENT. Their job is not to interpret or create law, it is simply to enforce what legislators have passed. Based on this law, however ridiculous it may be, the police are doing what they can, or in this case, cannot. A place where police arbitrarily interpret the law is not a place that I'd want to be. If you're looking to direct your outrage somewhere, focus it on the law MAKERS, not the police.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • GoDucks73

      Please kill yourself, or I'll meet you in Florida if you'd like...it would be best if you did it because I'll take my sweet time.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Good reply, Ducks. That was well thought out and articulated. Any time you'd like to actually say something to support your argument, I'd be interested to hear what, specifically, you think it is that the chief should have done differently.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • FLOYD

      The police didn't interview anyone!!! Didn't test for drugs as is required. PLEASE!!!! They did everything wrong

      March 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • SafeJourney

      Gary, you do what the police was suppose to do, investigate, irregardless of the law

      March 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      The police interviewed everyone from the 911 recordings that were willing to be interviewed. You cannot investigate something if no crime has been committed. I understand the outrage, but AGAIN, this is a law making problem. If the LAW says there is no crime, then there will be no investigation. If you're mad, be mad at the LAW and direct your energy into getting that changed, not ranting and raving about the police. I know you WANT them to investigate and you WANT them to charge someone, but .. with what? Murder? Based on the law, its not murder. And therein lies the problem. Get the law changed and you have your resolution.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • TD

      Arrest him for the taking of a life. Allow the courts to interpret the law. Trial by jury. No emotion on the cops part, I agree. But let due process take it's course by starting the process. That IS his job.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Gary, point taken. It's the WAY the police dept handled the investigation. Fact: His dad was looking for his son for THREE days. Why, because he didn't know his son was dead laying up in the morgue. He had his cell phone on him so why couldn't the police at the VERY least try to reach someone in his contact list to come identify the body and inform his parents they found their son. That's just for starters...I hope he never works in law enforcement again. May this case and the pain of his parents remain w/him throughout his life. Thanks for listening Gary.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • TD

      The law doesn't say there is no crime. It says there can be reasonable justification for his action, but that needs to be determined by due process.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      The police should have arrested Zimmerman because he killed a unarmed child. I understand there is a stupid law in FL called "stand your ground" which is to me is just a license to kill someone, but many of you that believe in this law should think about your child or loved one being killed in cold blood and the man that shot them is walking around free as a bird. Really think about if this happened to someone in your family, I bet you would be OUTRAGED!!!!!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      @Sean – I agree, that was handled very poorly. Thanks for pointing that out. No excuse for that to ever happen.

      @TD – The law says that if acting in self defense, lethal force is legal. I understand everyone is saying that he couldn't have been acting in self defense, but unfortunately, without the testimony of the victim, who in this case died, there is no one to contest what happened. Plenty of speculation, but unfortunately speculation is irrelevant. Therefore, LEGALLY, no crime has been committed. There is nothing for the courts to decide. The way the law is written, he can't be prosecuted for this without evidence to the contrary of what he's claiming. It's unfortunate, but again, the police did nothing wrong, with the exception of what Sean pointed out, but that's a whole different issue that has nothing to do with Zimmerman's prosecution.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      @Kim – I would be absolutely outraged. This is a poorly written law. It's great in theory, but sometimes that doesn't translate into practicability. I'm all for people being able to protect themselves against violent offenders, which it appears was not the case here. The law needs a tweak, to say the least. But your emotions are clouding your view of the way this country works. There's a reason we have a Judicial system in place. It's certainly not perfect, at all, but you can't just go against laws because of how you feel. Vote for different politicians, take action in elections and write your politicians at all levels to do something proactively. Everyone comes out of the woodwork when something happens to complain, but they're usually the same people that don't vote, or don't truly understand WHAT they are voting FOR.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      @SafeJourney – The police enforce laws. They are not supposed to investigate anything "irregardless" of the law. That is actually exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to do.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. GoDucks73

    I condone the vigilante killing of Zimmerman and Bill Lee, let their blood run in the streets.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Miami1969

    This unprovoked murder is disgusting, and the murderer should be charged with a crime.
    However, i think we might be misdirecting our anger. Police can only enforce the law, not make the law. If they are having trouble finding that this murderer broke the law, then look to the lawmakers for introducing this stupid damn "stand your ground" law.
    Think about it, with all the negative publicity surrounding the police department, do you not they they would have gone right out and arrested him if they could ?

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • RillyKewl

      How can you defend the sloppy police work they did?
      They never tested Zimmerman for drugs + alcohol, never looked into his arrest record, never ran his fingerprints, never questioned the voracity of his statements, nor took samples of the blood + gun powder burns he was spayed with.
      Give me a break.
      How about the fact that he called 911, 47 times since Jan 1, 2011?

      March 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • TD

      They can. Let the courts decide if his action are protected by the law.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. pleasedotell

    "Florida's deadly force law, also called "stand your ground," allows people to meet "force with force" if they believe that there is danger of serious harm to themselves or someone else."

    Sounds like a subjective standard to me. If we go by what a person believes, we have to remember that many are hypersensitive. Someone can be 6 feet away from me and raise their hand while yelling doesn't always mean that they can project themselves that far and hit me. The state should change it to an objective standard and see what a reasonable person would think. Sadly, we are not all reasonable. But it's better than nothing. I'm appalled that Zimmerman whol lived in the same neighborhood did not even go to Trayvon's father's house after the boy's body was identified, and try to apologize and talk about that night. Usually when you do something right, you have nothing to hide, when you do something wrong, you avoid others because you know they can look into your eyes and tell the truth.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mr.America

    It's a shame a young man is dead, but many blacks are shot by blacks and no one not even blacks seem to say anything about it. The minute a light colored man shoots a black, lookout!

    March 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dvels advocate

    Whatever!! He's just doing like zimmerman and getting the heck outta dodge before he ends up lynched!! Gonna try and wait until this whole thing blows over....Pssssht!

    Sorry pal, not this time! You won't be coming back!!

    March 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
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