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.

soundoff (480 Responses)
  1. Darius

    Temporarily is not long enough.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Read between the lines, he is not going to be able to come back

      March 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jasmine

      YEP! If he cant handle the heat its time to get out!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      You Bet!

      We will turn RACIST America upside-down with a Tsunami.

      Sit tight!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Johnson

    He is a disgrace to his uniform. He should be run out of town, pension denied and given a short life span.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son

      You are absolutely right! I mean what did that white cop think he was doing by covering for a hispanic guy who shot a black guy!?

      March 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Run out of town? really? he stepped aside, that was the right thing to do. His career is probably toast at this point, I see no value in ruining even more lives. Its Zimmerman that has to be dealt with.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacknyd

      You're an Idiot, He did all he could do under the Florida laws ( Florida's deadly force law ) You want him to break the law to justify someone else who supposedly broke the law. You read the laws before posting suck BUNK! Let me Guess, Your Black?

      March 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave H

      Why? Blame Florida legislators. They are the ones that came up with the law that allowed this to happen. Right now, no law has been broken that he could arrest anyone for. If a subsequent investigation reveals a crime was committed, then and only then can charges be filed. So many reactionary people spouting off. As it stands right this very minute, no law was broken. I grant you the law is bizarre and I seriously doubt it went down the way the shooter says it did – but until there is some concrete proof of that – the standing law says he did nothing wrong.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • FloridaRacistRedCoats

      The kid went to 7 eleven bought Skittles and a Soda. He was on his way back to where he was staying. What laws did he break? Why did an adult pull a gun on an unarmed kid let alone use the "Self Defense" claim if he was the instigator approaching Travis as if he had authority too?

      March 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      You're a wiseman!

      There are times you wonder if some white folks EVEN have brains at ALL in their brain cavities. At least he could have detained this SATANIC MURDERER for some few hours like they always do pending further investigations. How does a FULL grown man justified the KILLING of a child lazily walking home? I see white kids in my complex doing exactly the SAME thing Trayvon was doing late at night. They will stop, hop, look around, spin around, jump, flip backwards, make some silly moves and just walk on. Weekends are even worse. They stay late doing their own thing, throw soda cans and chips around like kids into adulthood. Who the HECK am I to confront them? What gives me that right?

      Once in a while I will open my door and they will be right there sitting on my porch unmoved or unfazed. Most of the time, I don't even know who these white kids are. I just laugh it off and go upstairs leaving them alone.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sirned

    In three years there has been 3 police chiefs the first one stepped down because his son beat up a homeless man. The next one stepped down because of funny stuff covering up the homeless case and now this one and two of the officers on Trayvons case were also on the scene in the homeless case... Lordie they have some real issues in this town...

    March 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • FloridaRacistRedCoats

      They need to be investigated! It seems like Police abuse and negligence against minorities has been a growing epedimic in Florida since President Obama was sworn into office. We need to start taking a closer look at racist domestic terrorists who are acting out to "Take their Country Back" Especially those good ol boys within our government system who support this type of behavior or hint to support it.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy© "I Post Under My Own Name"

    The Martin family had no confidence in him from the beginning.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      They have the BIRTH RIGHT to be!
      This closet RACISTS, impotent police chief proved himself otherwise and beyond all measure that he's a CLOSET RACISTS in police uniform ............ period.
      He's WORSE than the SATAN possessed MURDERER, George Zimmerman himself.

      You can bet your BUTT, I will have popped him myself and let the chips fall where they may. These sons of SATAN Lucifer are very lucky they’re dealing with a Black family who are too religious and let Region dictate their action or daily lives.

      You gun down ANY member of my family and you will NOT live inclu. ALL members of your family. It will be One-Death to justify the Deaths –of-Ten (min.) to send a CLEAR Retaliatory
      message. I dare ANY RACIST idiot or Cop to try!

      I fight FIRE-with-FIRE from College thru. Graduate school to present. I don’t take ANY BULL from ANY Police cop or RACISTS white, closet or otherwise.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bill

    You have PERMANENTLY disgraced your department and human beings every where.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    How can the public honestly believe that others should NOT "Stand Their Ground"??? WHo the heck believes that they should be legally obligated to roll-over and give bullies what every they want? Have you all forgotten that we are a nation founded on the belief that we should NOT let others push us around? How Un-American is that? Now, I am not judging right or wrong this one man's actions, but if you honestly believe that you should NOT defend yourself, then I have to say that you are an exercise in Darwinism. Best of luck when your genes disappear from humanity.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy© "I Post Under My Own Name"

      Yep, deadly force IS needed against a bag of Skittles.
      Great way to apply that law!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Damian

      "stand your ground" is a repulsive law that basically gives you the right to murder.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill

      Lee – Nobody wants you! Quit!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • chicago2010

      John, walking away is not rolling-over and does not mean giving bullets away. It is as simple as walking away if POLICE, of all people, tells you to walk away as was the case in this killing. 911 told Zimmerman to walk away. He was not told to give away his bullets.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Campbell

      The question is not if he should or should not have defended himself. The question now is was he or was he not defending himself. Was he the victim or the aggressor.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Err.. what are you talking about? How does that have ANYTHING to do with this case? Zimmerman stalked, pursued and confronted Treyvon despite the 911 dispatcher telling him not to. He then escalated the encounter into a physical fight which ended with him shooting the victim. How is this anything like you are talking about. In fact, what you are describing is exactly what TREYVON should have done when Zimmerman confronted him. I just wish Treyvon had had a gun too, so he could hide behind the same law.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meyapp

      What happens if every american feels the other is a threat and kills?

      March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      The law assumes that self-defense is based on good judgment. Otherwise, any lunatic could get away with shooting someone whose eye color he didn't like.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tiff

      Defending yourself is perfectly fine. Following someone and or chasing them down and they when they protect themselves aganist you....YOU claim self defense is not fine. Had treyvon martin attacked zemmerman and gotten shot that would have been a different story.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy© "I Post Under My Own Name"

    I sincerely hope that this move is made permanent.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mark

    It's horrible that Zimmerman can't be arrested but for people to call for the police chief to step down is wrong. We need to stop calling for people to be fired every time a mistake happens. It's the law's fault that they can't arrest this guy, not the police chief's.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      @Mark: This wasnt a mistake. This is a cultural issue at that police department. The fact that they held the body for 3 days despite having access to the phone and his parents number is a real problem. And the fact that they never charged Zimmerman, or at least held him for questioning, is deeply problematic. Tell me.. if the races had been reversed, do you actually think Treyvon would have been off the hook like this guy? No way.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      @Michael: I understand what you're saying and let me say again I think Zimmerman was wrong and needs arrested however this is obviously a loophole in the law and the problem that needs addressed immediately before something happens like this again. It's a shame that a young man had to die because of all this. As for your statements about the police department, there are obviously problems with policies and procedures there as well. This needs reviewed and the officers involved need investigated to determine if they acted appropriately or not and THEN they should be dealt with accordingly. I just have a huge problem when the second something happens involving race we have a lot of people immediately calling for people to resign or get fired.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      @ﺶCHEﺶ First off I believe it's "seek some intelligence" not "intelligent." Secondly I'm not the one jumping on a message board just yelling and swearing. I'm just posting my views and if you would have read what I posted previously you would see the I think what was done was wrong, but we just can't nail the police for that. The underlying source of the problem is the law itself. That's what needs fixed.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Diest

    Where is Jeb Bush's apology for signing such a moronic law??

    March 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Campbell

      You expect an apology for a law that makes it legal for you to defend yourself? And you would not think that the responsibility rests on the legislature for writing such a law?

      March 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bill

    And I could care less that you're a father. Feel bad for your kids who will be raised as trash just as yourself.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bill

    Why not arrest Zimmerman before you step down a ss ho le!

    March 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      @bill, Glad you asked.
      He's DUMB, incompetent, unqualified white man on the job.
      You chase after a white kid facing home like kids do anytime in ANY State and you could arrested for stalking and inducing FEAR in a child.

      I had a whiteman ARRESTED for following my son in 1997. I gave him a very good beating with bloody nose before the police arrived. I pressed charges against him for INDUCING FEAR in my son. And he was taken away in handcuffs. My neighbors were shocked for the beatings.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. erik

    Maybe police should be voted into office lol.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Campbell

      you don't want the back woods, redneck mentality of Sanford voting for police chief do you? I mean they voted in the leaders that chose the last three losers as it is. I think people OUTSIDE Sanford should select a police chief for them. It's going to take outside influence to correct that town.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Don

    Quit while you're behind, Lee.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dcl

    This has been a very disgraceful escapade. If we really still had integrity in the U.S. he would of admitted wrongdoing and stepped down permanently.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Yaakov

    Good. It's time to take the entire NRA, declare them terrorists and deport the whole lot of these nazis. This law they passed down there is a sign of the level of cave mentality that permeates much of this country that suffers from a severe form of gun idolatry. Time to wipe this NRA filth off the map. It has given nothing to this country but lies, propaganda and mass killings.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
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