The Lookout

Police chief in Trayvon Martin case to step down

Zachary Roth
The Lookout

Sanford, Fla., Police Chief Bill Lee is "temporarily" resigning amid widespread criticism of his department's handling of the Trayvon Martin case, he announced moments ago.

"My role as the leader of this agency has become a distraction for this organization," Lee said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. "It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process. I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself from the position of police chief of the city of Sanford."

Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. said in a letter released Wednesday evening that police were "prohibited" from arresting George Zimmerman, who had confessed to shooting Martin, "based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time." Zimmerman told local police he acted in self-defense.

Sanford police have been criticized for not conducting an alcohol or drug test on Zimmerman, as is standard practice in a homicide probe, among other alleged missteps. And a witness has said that a law enforcement officer "corrected" her when she said she heard Martin screaming for help. Lee had emerged as a focal point of the criticism.

Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, was patrolling the streets of a gated community in Sanford on Feb. 26, when he spotted Martin and told a police dispatcher that a "black male" was acting "suspicious." Zimmerman, 28, ignored a warning from the dispatcher not to pursue Martin, and a violent confrontation ensued, leaving Martin dead.

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