Trayvon Martin Case Police Chief Bill Lee Permanently Relieved of Duty

Bill Lee dismissed amid "escalating divisiveness" of racially charged case.

ByMichael S. James and Seni Tienabeso
June 20, 2012, 10:26 PM

June 20, 2012 — -- Sanford, Fla., has fired Bill Lee, the police chief who initially oversaw the controversial investigation into a white-Hispanic neighborhood watch captain's fatal shooting of a black 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin.

The initial lack of an arrest drove widespread protests and propelled the case into national headlines.

Lee previously took leave as chief and later offered to resign. Now, he is "permanently relieved of duty," according to a written announcement from the city.

"After much thoughtful discussion and deep consideration for the issues facing the city of Sanford, I have determined the police chief needs to have the trust and respect of the elected officials and the confidence of the entire community," Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte was quoted saying in the city's statement. "We need to move forward with a police chief that all the citizens of Sanford can support. I have come to this decision in light of the escalating divisiveness that has taken hold of the city."

Sanford police initially cited Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows killings in self defense, in declining to arrest the neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman claimed he was defending himself, adding that after a late-night confrontation Martin was getting the better of him in a scuffle prior to the fatal shot.

Amid separate investigations into the shooting and the response to it, Lee said on March 22 that he was "temporarily" stepping aside as Sanford police chief. He later offered his full resignation but the city council narrowly voted to reject it.

View: Trayvon Martin Case: Crime Scene and Other Photos

In April, a special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Rick Scott charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder.

In announcing Lee's dismissal, Sanford said Interim Chief Rick Myers would continue to run the city's police department as the city conducted a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.

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