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.

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soundoff (480 Responses)
  1. Sirned

    Zimmerman or his retired judge father has something on this police department because their response defies logic...

    March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • john/kc

      If you are in a confrontation with someone threatening you, and they make a threatening gesture, such as reaching in their pocket or waste band, you don't know if they have a gun, knife, or skittles. You would have to be there to see actually what went down. If you are wrong, you either die yourself or shoot when it was not needed. All you vigilantes that want to string this guy up were not there.

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

    Am I missing something here – isn't "Force To Force" if I hit you you have the legal right to hit me back, so if I shoot you – you have the legal right to shoot me back? Equal measures or did they not define that well when they created the law. Sorry – arrest him and let him prove his innocence – Due Justice . Sorry for the family – this just extends their pain. Everyone needs the truth. Anyone can say "Self Defense" but you should have to have proof of it. Can't take one person's side over the other if the other is not there to defend himself. Someone needs to be appointed to speak on his behalf in some form.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      Wow. When you're arrested, you don't have to prove your innocence, but rather they have to prove your guilt. Not sure what country you live in, but in the United States of America a person is considered innocent until proven guilty, and not the other way around. If you do live in the US, it's pretty scary that you are so confused on the matter.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • john/kc

      So you are to stand there and let someone with more street fighting ability beat hell out of you without striking back the only way you can to protect yourself from great bodily harm? Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty according to the law of the land, or do you vigilantes just want him strung up anyway?

      March 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Captain

    Wasn't the guy told by the 911 operator not to pursue/follow the kid?!!!
    I don't understand why he would follow the kid, engage him, the kid is yelling for help meaning he's already been overpowered by this thug and yet he pulls the gun and kills him!
    He won't get away with this, trust me! Screw the police department that can't hold a murderer for the crime committed! You bet your ass you are going to step aside but this is not temporary, it's permanent!

    March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amazed

      That is the exact point.. He got in his car & followed him, then kept pursuing him even after being told not to. I'm all for defending yourself if it comes down to it, but its OBVIOUS this guy went looking for trouble.. Hopefully between the feds & the grand jury the right action will be taken.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. popeye1128

    Temporarily? What a joke? It is his department that failed to any immediately after the shooting. They didn't confiscate the gun for testing and ballistics, they test Zimmerman for drugs/alcohol, they basically did nothing they should have done.
    What a joke! He should be gone permanently. Maybe flipping burgers would suit him because he is definitely no leader and should not be in a leadership position.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. glorydays

    "Temporarily"? Not good enough. He must be one hard headed bigot.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BOMBO ©

    When public opinion is blowing up at you, find your scapegoat.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • glorydays

      The buck stops here.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. madrep

    These rioters come by and threaten my home or any piece of owned property and will will see just how the NRA works.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • GomezAddams

      Yeah madrep. Someone like you should really have a gun. I'm sure your neighbors just love you.

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

      Again, another idoit judging just because you see more African Americans at the Rally. Read St Mattews 7:1-5.

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

      MADREP we won't come by unless Zimmerman is in your house!!!!!!!!!! duh why would you think that rioters will come to YOUR house???? ohhhh maybe you just wanted to be in the conversation ok I got it!!! SMDH

      March 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. nita

    The "Stand Your Ground" law was passed with the best intentions - but in only applied to those with rational states of mind. Zimmerman and his supporters sound like a paranoid, irrational, power hungry, finger-pointing , lying bunch. How can anybody justify this killing as self defense. You don't KILL people who disagree with you. You don't kill people who are unarmed. You don't kill people even after a scuffle. You don't kill people who threaten your superiority. Gun owners, at least the majority of them, take great responsibility in owning a weapon. It's people like Zimmerman that make gun ownership in the U.S. look bad. I sincerely hope he gets jail time, but seriously, nothing can mitigate the pain he caused. The best thing to do, IMO, is to repeal this law or amend it.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • john/kc

      If you are in a confrontation with someone threatening you, and they make a threatening gesture, such as reaching in their pocket or waste band, you don't know if they have a gun, knife, or skittles. You would have to be there to see actually what went down. If you are wrong, you either die yourself or shoot when it was not needed. All you vigilantes that want to string this guy up were not there.l

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

      If he had any integrity left , he should save face and step down permanently. Cops like this come a dime a dozen. They never fess up to their mistakes or blatant abuse of power, as if they had an immaculate image to begin with. Or it could be that cops never like to be wrong. Those are the worst types of people to deal with, and those who blame others for their mistakes.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. palintwit

    If they ever did a remake of Deliverance, he'd fit right in.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sureyado

    bowing down to the mob is never a good idea

    March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. katahdin

    It's a good thing the chief is stepping aside. They not only did not arrest Zimmerman, they didn't take his clothes for forensic testing, photograph him, or test him for drugs and alcohol. The guy in charge is responsible. If he allows his people to skate on doing their duty, he's not fit for command.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mary

    He should make this a permanent decision since he is unablle to do his job . He needs to find another career.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. kandie

    ve no confidence in him. I am a white person and I have no confidence in him.

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

    he and the guy who made report , both need to get Prosecuted . they all are ducebags...........

    March 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mike

    Why is there any question that the shooter ought to be arrested and charged? If (and I do mean IF) there is anything to the shooter's story that he felt his life was threatened, then he can prove that to a jury with his convincing and sincere testimony. Why does the local police chief get to make the jury's call by not charging the shooter at all based on the shooter saying "I felt my life was threatened?"

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