Sanford, Fla., Chief to Resign; Officials Must OK
The police chief in the city where Trayvon Martin was shot is set to permanently step down from his post after enduring strong criticism of his department’s decision not to arrest George Zimmerman.
City commissioners — who previously gave Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee a vote of “no confidence” — must approve the resignation before it can formally take effect. They were set to take a vote on it Monday afternoon.
Lee had temporarily stepped aside as chief March 22 after enduring strong criticism over his department’s handling of the Martin case. Police did not initially charge 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who claimed he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense. Prosecutors later charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder.
“The city has experienced great turmoil in the past two months and we are hoping to stabilize the department and continue with this time of healing,” said City Manager Norton Bonaparte.
Florida law gives people broad leeway to use lethal force if they believe their lives are in grave danger. The Feb. 26 shooting sparked protests nationwide, as well as debates about the laws and race. Martin was black; Zimmerman is the son of a white father and Hispanic mother.
Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder earlier this month, 44 days after the fatal shooting. He was released from the Seminole County Jail in the middle of the night on $150,000 bail.
The neighborhood watch volunteer was wearing a brown jacket and blue jeans and carrying a paper bag as he walked out of the Seminole County jail around midnight Sunday. He was following another man and didn’t look at photographers gathered outside. The two then got into a white BMW and drove away.
Zimmerman did not speak as he left the suburban Orlando jail.
His ultimate destination is being kept secret for his safety. He could leave Florida.