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. Donna

    All the repubs and teabaggers will come out in force to stand up for the white man. Scr*w the boy of color. In fact, scr*w all the people of color – they're not real Americans.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Learn to Fish

      What white guy are you talking about? Thank you for making this into a black/white thing, very mature and helpful. Jesse Jackson, is that you?

      March 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • CeeLoGreen

      Learn To Fiish, unfortunately this is a race issue... because of the way it was handled.
      When a white person is killed, a person is 11 times more likely to be charged and convicted than if a non white person is murdered. Those are facts.
      It's also racially charged bc of the way Zimmerman spoke of Trayvon in those 911 call.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DC

    Sanford and Jacksonville, FL law enforcement leaders are pure racists.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ivana Tinkle

    People claiming this was self defense on the part of the shooter are full of it. He is the one that initiated the incident, not the kid who got shot. By that logic could a commit a crime against someone, have them stand up for themselves, and blow them away in "self defense"?

    March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CeeLoGreen

    Hopefully this will turn into a permanent step down!

    March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    It should be noted that the Florida state representative who was the primary sponsor of the "stand your ground" law says that the law "does not seem to be applicable to the tragedy that happened in Sanford." Full article is on Fox News.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Red

    People seem to forget this other crime that has gone un punished.. could it be that no one is calling this one unjust because the victim in this one is white and the suspect is black. same story though, just switch it around

    March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. R8RBOB

    I am curious to know if Sanford, FL is really Hazzard County and Chief Bill Lee is really Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane and the first officer who interviewed George Zimmerman is really Deputy Cletus Hogg. The police in Sanford should be disbanded for being so dumb. You have a man (Zimmerman) on the phone telling the dispatcher that the boy (Martin) is running and he is in hot pursuit. Trayvon running means only two things: 1) he was doing something he wasn't suppose to be do and he saw Zimmerman and starting running or he noticed Zimmerman kept staring at him freaking him out as he was walking back to his father's house. Lee (Roscoe) and his men went with the former where is a smart detective would have went with the latter since Zimmerman was giving the police a rundown what Trayvon was doing. Zimmerman should be charged with 1st murder, period.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SafeJourney

    Where is Zimmerman and his gun now? Is he still in Florida or is he on his way to Mexcio with his gun? You know the gun he shot Trayvon with and is suppose to be evidence.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Loyal Northren Democrat

      He works at the Florida Democratic regional office. Check there.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sly

    Sounds like the movie "A Time to Kill" All over again, except this is a true story.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Serg

    In other words, instead of dealing with this situation, which was poorly handled by his department, he is taking a vacation.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RillyKewl

    Why do all the racists come here to post their hate?
    Don't the KKK have comments threads for you?

    March 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Norman Hirsch

    I support the "stand your ground" law but not if you go chasing someone down. He should be tried for murder!

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

      Great for vigilantes + murderers to get to go home after their killing sprees.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. tony

    Why are people commenting on how bad it is to carry a weapon ? He could have did the same thing with a rock , a firearm is a tool its the person behind it you have to be concerned with .

    March 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Yesorno

    If you do not think this guy should be arrested. The you do not know the law or just do not care. So go ahead and follow this law and you will be the radar too.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Erma Lee

    This type of things has happen before in Flordia and the police have been covering up these wrongful killings.

    God made sure that every thing was in place for the exposing of the Cheif and his police force, 1. there werea # of people at home that were calling 911, 2. Trayvon was on the phone with his girl friend, 3. 911 caller ask Zimm not to follow Trayvon, 4. Trayvon was not doing anything wrong but was chosen to be the lamb.
    This Chief needs to step down and those who investigated the crime.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
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