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. WEL

    As an investigator, I suggest everyone just calm down and let the process work. There are enough eyes on this that the truth will come out. How many times in only the recent past has the initial emotional knee-jerk reaction of the national conversation been wrong?

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

      You sound like a typical "know-it-all, how dare you tell the people who are "heart sick" over this senseless act of violence to calm down!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • sarah j

      Well as a HUMAN had this been YOUR son/grandson/nephew/brother, you would NOT have the same response. but considering that it was just "ANOTHER BLACK MAN KILLED" you really could care less. how pathetic.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emily

      Calm Down?! After hearing the tapes, and interview of people in the neighborhood. Well, I can see you have no feeling or compassion. Obviously, you have never been lied on, wrongly convicted of anything. No one has judged you falsely. It must be good to be you. I pray for all involved here, including the shooter. Lives will never be the same.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BA Opinion

    I think he needs to step down "permanently". Clearly his judgment is clouded.

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

      I totally agree!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Annie - Georgia

    He need to quit!

    March 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kelcy

    The whole convening a grand jury is just a CYA move on the part of the prosecutor. He thinks that by "presenting it to the grand jury" that they can come back saying there was nothing to indict and he would be covered. Given that the grand jury proceedings are secret and no one would know what he did or did not say then it is totally meaningless. Unless FL is a state where a grand jury must sign off on the indictment then he, the prosecutor, could just arrest Zimmerman based on the existing 911 calls that came in about the murder.....not to mention Zimmerman`s own being at the top of the list. We`ve all heard the tapes by now. It was not self-defense.

    Of course, where is Mr. Zimmerman these days. Not in that townhouse for sure. I doubt he had that much food in storage for just an occasion. He is long gone. Wonder what state he is in.

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

      Probably a state of semi-panic.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. yogotti


    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fastball

    "Considering he doesn't believe in arresting people for murder".......but correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't Florida have some kind of law that if you fear for your life, you are allowed to use deadly force?
    So all this guy has to say is that he was legitimately afraid for his life, and shot the kid. (OK, he shot him in the back...but that's irrelevant – the kid could have turned his back at the last second, right?)
    Why do you guys pass such horsebleep laws?

    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. gino

    It's okay, Bill. You can work parttime for the TSA. They'd love to have you...

    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. magnido

    Why step down "temporarily" if you can't do your job and lead...might as well step down forever!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Wildernessyes

    Why would he step down? He has a young school kid murdered on his watch, for no apparent reason, by some crazy gun toting pretend, and did nothing about it. It does not sound like has any job performance issues, just racism. There is nothing wrong with that in the south, is there?

    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. us1776

    The head of the KKK aka Sanford Police Chief is stepping aside albeit only temporarily.

    So can we NOW arrest Zimmerman for murdering this unarmed innocent young man?


    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. oh please

    some might think that he is stepping down from pressure from all the black cops on the force who are already corrupted and go out of their way to harass you on the highway

    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy© "I Post Under My Own Name"

      hA HA HA HA!
      Oh, you were serious? That's even funnier!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Turner

    he have really started a mess because the right thing was not done. next step is to pick up Zimmerman for the murder of that child.Fire him!!!

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

    Shame on Bill Lee. Shame on the Sanford Police Department. And, Shame on Florida's legislature.

    For a state that relies almost exclusively on tourism to keep its economy afloat – legalizing murder (if it's just called self-defense *wink, wink*) is the stupidest thing you could have done to prevent people from coming to your freakishly backwards state. Keep your theme parks and your beaches for the bankruptcy courts ....people are going to other states, where it's safer with a system of real equality, with their families from now on until you straighten yourself out.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      The only way Florida is going to get straightened out is when they stop electing all the rightwing nutjobs.

      Compared to the 1970's when Florida was under Democratic administrations the state has gone steadily downhill ever since.


      March 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. sombrero

    can we stop calling zimmerman a neighborhood watch leader? he was not affiliated with neighborhood watch. he was a busybody loser with a gun and an intchy trigger finger.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. clouds9

    Step aside? STEP DOWN!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17