Saying his role as police chief has "become a distraction," Bill Lee Jr. announced he was stepping down temporarily.
The Sanford, Fla. police chief has been under fire for the way he has handled the investigation surrounding the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Martin, who was unarmed, was shot by a a 28-year-old man, George Zimmerman, who claimed self defense.
During a news conference, today, Lee said that he stands by his police department, its personnel and the investigation that was conducted, but he was stepping down to "restore a semblance of calm to the city."
"My involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process," Lee said. "My role has become a distraction... It is my hope the investigation process will move swiftly and appropriately."
Lee did not take any questions.
Norton Bonaparte Jr., the city manager, added, "what the city wants most for the family of Trayvon Martin is justice,"
The case has prompted demonstrations across the country. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said on Tuesday it was sending officials to Florida. The FBI said it had opened an investigation into the "facts and circumstances" of the killing.
Update at 7:45 p.m. ET. A New Prosecutor:
The shake up continues: Florida Gov. Rick Scott just announced that he has appointed a new prosecutor in the Martin case.
Angela B. Corey, the prosecutor for the Jacksonville area, will take over the case.
"Scott said this came after the local prosecutor for the central Florida county where the shooting happened, Norman Wolfinger, volunteered to recuse himself," the AP reports.
Update at 5:24 p.m. ET. 'We Need A Permanent Relief':
The parents of Trayvon Martin spoke before a rally in Sanford, Fla.
Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said Lee's temporary resignation was not enough.
"This is temporary relief," she said. "We need permanent relief. We need an arrest."
"Our son did not deserve to die," Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin said. "There's nothing that we can say that will bring him back, but I'm here today to assure that justice is served and that no other parents have to go through this again."
Update at 4:44 p.m. ET. A Bit Of Background On The Department:
The Miami Herald adds a bit of background on the Sanford Police Department:
"Lee was on the job for just 10 months. He joined the department after a 27-year career at the Seminole County Sheriff's Office with a mission to clean up a department marked by internal turmoil and race-related scandals.
"But the national pressure over a perceived bungling of the investigation was ultimately too much for city officials, who are bracing for a thousands-strong rally Thursday night, and another one at their meeting Monday."
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