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. '"Zstarnger

    Gods wheel of justice may grind slowly but it is guaranteed to grind exceedingly fine.

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

      Yes, exactly!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Panthro

      I wish for once you'd keep "God" out of it....This is man's law that's going to determine this outcome...

      March 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Langley Whickersham

    Maybe he should have conducted a complete investigation before concluding that Zimmerman did no wrong and acted in self defense. Eventhough that is not for him to conclude in the first place. He botched this case and should step aside. The evidence the police collected should have gone to the states attorney and the states attorney should decide that that a grand jury or pre lim hearing should be called to determine if their is enough evidence for a trial. This entire time Zimmerman should have been locked up and then given his chance for bail. Thats how it should have been handled. Not ok you said it was self defense, we believe you!

    March 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big George in Big D

      You are wrong. You don't just lock up people. You first have to "charge" them with an offense. There are legal steps to take. Granted, it could have been handled differently, but not as you seem to suggest.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Leslie

    He doesn't need to step aside he needs to quit all together... obviously he is just as racist as the killer... If it had been a black youth who killed a white person they would have been put in handcuffs right away.... In fact the whole department needs a overhaul fire them all ......

    March 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • SanfordResident

      Why would you suggest to fire the spd? That is a dumb statement you have no idea of legal issues. Sanford is 40% black and 40% hispanic and mexican. Statistically it would have envolved these races. Stop with the racial crap!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      I was a hispanic guy who killed a black kid. Get your facts straight and stop fanning racial hate fires in order to make yourself look good. You don't look good, btw.

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

    The police chief needed to step aside, and he needs to step out of the police force period.

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

    Hopefully, Trayvon will get the justice that Emitt Till, the people of Rosewood, Florida, the Tulsa, Oklahoma of the Black Wall Street era, and so many other people and places too numerous to name in one post did not. I am embarrassed to be a part of "This America" and wept for the future of our children.

    My African American Brothers and Sisters, please take a deep breath before you react. We do not need another Civil War between the races, because no one will win this round. Trust me!

    George Zimmerman....where art thou!!! Why are you not stepping up to us as boldly as you stepped up to Trayvon? Just asking.

    R.I.P. Trayvon and all of the truly innocent victims of racism, fear, and hate. No matter the race, creed, religion, political affiliation, or color.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • sammy sozo

      Before you get all dramatic about this and make it out to be a racial incident consider this. Every weekend in
      Chicago blacks shoot and kill others blacks, including little children and sometimes babies. Where's the uproar over that?

      March 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. buhbye

    Yeah I think he needs to step aside and let someone who knows what they are doing take over. I guess by him "stepping down" this is a PR move to take him out of the limelight and also strengthens the argument that he or is subordinates made a mistake in the handling of this situation.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. madrep

    Work it up in a frenzy CNN...let's get the non working people all up in riot formation. Get facts first NAACP, Wannabe Rev Sharpton, wannabe Rev Jackson.....enough already. How bout the white boy covered in gas on his front porch and set on fire in Kansas City????? Where is that on front page news????

    March 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • EarlGrayHot

      I'm a full time worker here in Indiana, thank you very much, and I think this case was handled inappropriately. Someone has already said deciding if there is enough evidence should be up to the grand jury not the police chief. Such a serious allegation as murder should always be treated that way. Plus, it sounds as if they already have evidence contradicting Zimmerman's story, the boy's girlfriend's cell call and the fact that Zimmerman was told by the police dispatcher not to follow the kid. Zimmerman got out of his car and ran after him. That indicated premediatation. He FOLLOWED him with the intension to get him. Zimmerman created the situation then whines about self defense.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • militaryvet

      i guess his parents did not care enough to get involved. Believe me if something were to happen to MY son and nobody did anything about it guess what im shouting to the top of my lungs until someone hears and listens to me!!!!! and with that being said if the young boys parent would have gotten involved and CAUSED an uproar when he was burned on the front poarch then it would have made the radio, newspaper,front page, cnn whatever.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Essie

      @Madrep...whoever u are, stop dredging up past events! This is present & NOW!!! Sorry if they didn't demand justice in those cases, but u better believe we are DEMANDING justice in this case!!!!

      March 22, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sistersolja

    Michael Vick gets locked up for dog fighting, because PETA calls for his conviction. A black boy gets shot by a white man, and call for self defense – White man goes free. No justice for the black boy with skittles and a coke in his hand. He's dead. White man still walking free, no remorse. Circa 1800. Shoot free blacks at will. Good job, Florida.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • '"Zstarnger

      Tell 'em sister

      March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Debby

      First of all, he wasn't killed by a white person. Get your facts straight. Zimmerman is hispanic. Second, it doesn't matter what color the shooter was. This boy is dead and a proper investigation needs to be done. And last of all, Michael Vic is a thug who got less than he deserved. If you can do what he did to a defensless animal it isn't much of a leap to do it to a person!

      March 22, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rhino11us

    instead he's going to be wearing a white hood full-time.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Michael

    Being from Florida and seeing what the Stand Your Ground Law has done to my State. People dont even look each
    other in the eye for fear of being killed. One man shot another over a fish sandwich and got away with it. So sad.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. switters

    On "paid leave"........?

    March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tom

    Why are we putting guns in the hands of untrained civilians. Some of them may be right-wing nuts who are simply looking for an excuse to shoot someone.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff N.

    I listened to the tape of the racial slur on CNN and it sounds like Zimmerman is saying "F-- Noles", referring to the FSU Seminoles, who are sometimes called the "Noles". One story says that Travon was a football fan. Was he wearing any FSU apparel? If Zimmerman is a U. Of Florida fan (many of whom HATE the Seminoles) this could make sense. If so, this makes in even more tragic – killing someone over a sports rivalry.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • SanfordResident

      He said its cold not noles the already had a voice analysis on that.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jsfatl

    Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, Please stand by and be available for the Fed's further investigation of your crime.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tony

    Why did the shooter feel threatened enough to fire ?

    March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
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