(SANFORD, Fla.) — Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced Thursday he is temporarily stepping down amid accusations that his department bungled the investigation into the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Lee’s announcement came shortly before Florida Gov. Rick Scott said another key investigator tied to the case, State Attorney Norman Wolfinger, also had agreed to withdraw. Angela B. Corey of the 4th Judicial Circuit Court was appointed to replace Wolfinger.
Scott added that Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll would lead a special new task force to prevent future tragedies like Martin’s death that would “conduct public hearings, take testimony and recommend actions — legislative and otherwise — to both protect our citizens and safeguard our rights.”
In a press conference, Lee said he was stepping aside because he “hopes to restore semblance of calm to the city.” He added, “My hope is that the investigation process will move forth swiftly.”
Lee said he stands by his department’s investigation and the officers involved, but he acknowledges that he has become “a distraction from the investigation.”
“It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process,” he said.
City Manager Norton Bonaparte, who had earlier said he would defer any decision on Lee’s fate until after a thorough investigation had been completed, said, “What the city of Sanford wants more than anything else for the family of Trayvon Martin is justice.”
“We are looking for a complete, thorough review,” he said. “Justice will prevail.”
Martin, a 17-year-old black youth, was carrying only a bag of Skittles, iced tea and his cellphone, when Zimmerman allegedly killed him on Feb. 26.
While Martin’s family has repeatedly called for Zimmerman’s arrest, Sanford police accepted Zimmerman’s claim that the shooting was in self defense.
Lee’s resignation comes as the Sanford police department has come under increased scrutiny for an investigation that some say they botched from the very start.
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