The Florida police chief at the center of a national firestorm over the shooting of a 17-year-old black youth by a Hispanic crime watch volunteer announced Thursday he was temporarily stepping down from his position.
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. is taking a leave following widespread calls for his resignation in the wake of teenager Trayvon Martin’s shooting death.
“I must temporarily remove myself,” Lee said, adding that his position has become a distraction to the investigation.
Martin, 17, was shot in killed in a gated community last month by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman, 28, in an act that many believe was racially motivated.
Zimmerman, much to the chagrin of Martin’s family and civic leaders, has not been arrested or charged for the shooting, claiming it was self-defense and fell under the umbrella of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law which allows someone to “meet force with force.”
Sanford police will assign an acting police chief in Lee’s absence.
The news conference, held at Sanford City Hall, is poised to be one of many regarding the Martin investigation, Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. said.
The Sanford City Commission passed a motion of “no confidence,” with a vote of 3 to 2, for Lee on Wednesday. Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and commissioners Velma Williams and Mark McCarty all voted in favor of the motion.
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