Bonaparte acknowledged that case has been entangled in racial issues, which have dominated local discourse. "The actual killing of Martin is tragic and what it hit a chord on in America is the ongoing systemic problems between law enforcement and the black community."
Thousands are expected to attend a rally organized by the Reverend Al Sharpton tonight, demanding Zimmerman's arrest. Earlier Sharpton told ABC News that "Trayvon Martin is our generation's Emmett Till," referring to a 14-year-old black youth lynched in 1955 by for allegedly flirting with a white girl.
"It's an opportunity to say in America we are going to change the face of racism," said Bonaparte. "This is terrible but let's see what we can learn from this."
Wednesday night a "Million Hoodie March" was held in New York City in memory of Martin. The teen's parents addressed demonstrators chanting "We want arrests." They promised to keep fighting to get justice for their son.
The resignation of the police chief follows a heated special meeting of Sanford city commissioners Wednesday night, who voted "no confidence" against Lee. Three of five commissioners voted against him, and one commissioner demanded that Lee resign.
"The unknown in a tragedy will make the heart do crazy things, and we haven't done a good job of getting out in front of that," said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett after the vote. "I have confidence in him in a lot of ways, and don't have confidence in him in some ways."
The vote of "no confidence" came after Triplett fielded some tough questions from neighborhood residents and the media during an NAACP meeting aimed at addressing allegations of police misconduct in the community.
"If there were mistakes made we are going to act accordingly," Triplett said in response to a question from ABC News about the investigation into Martin's death.
But it's not just the conduct of police or local officials that is drawing ire.
Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law gives enormous leeway to people like Zimmerman to use deadly force if they feel threatened. Since the law was enacted seven years ago, justified homicides in Florida have jumped threefold, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Twenty states have similar laws, but Florida's is widely viewed as having the broadest application. Courts across the state have been trying to figure out how to grapple with the legislation and the Martin killing is one of several examples that have stirred controversy.
In another ongoing trial, lawyers for Trevor Dooley are using the law to defend him in the death of his neighbor David James. In 2010, Dooley shot James in front of his 8-year-old daughter after witnesses say the two men got into an altercation on a basketball court in Valrico, Fla., when James tried to prevent Dooley from shooing away a teenage skateboarder using the court to practice tricks.
Dooley's attorneys argue that he is protected by Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law and that he shot James in self defense.
Cases like this and Martin's have led Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, one of the original sponsors of the law, to say that it has been misused.
"There was nothing in this statute ever intended to protect somebody who was pursuing or confronting other people," said Baxley.