Sanford police chief hit with ‘no confidence’ vote over Martin murder

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, March 22, 2012 10:36 EDT
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Sanford, Fla. police chief Bill Lee Jr. stages a news conference on the murder of Treyvon Martin. Screenshot via YouTube.
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The police chief in Sanford, Florida has officially lost the confidence of local officials, following a close vote Wednesday night at the city commission.

City commissioners voted 3-2 on Wednesday night in favor of “no confidence” in Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. for his handling of an investigation into the murder of Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer inside an affluent, gated community.

Angry local residents lined up at the meeting to call for Lee’s resignation, even as thousands of protesters marched in New York City to demand justice.

The watchman, George Zimmerman, was not arrested following the killing, and the chief had claimed that evidence and testimony supported the shooter’s insistence that he’d only acted in self defense. Martin’s parents disagreed with the shooter’s defense, saying that Zimmerman had profiled their son before killing him. Audio of Zimmerman’s 911 calls later emerged, appearing to reveal that he referred to Martin using a racial epithet shortly before opening fire.

“He was reacting to the color of his skin,” Sabrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, explained during a recent interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer. “[Martin] committed no crime. My son wasn’t doing anything but walking on the sidewalk. And I just don’t understand why this situation got out of control.”

Martin’s death has now become a national rallying cry for racial justice, and a Florida state attorney said this week it would go before a grand jury in April.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also said they would investigate the case.

Despite Wednesday night’s vote, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. has not resigned, and he cannot be fired due to the terms of his contract. Velma Williams, the only black member of the Sanford City Commission, said she would ensure that contract is reviewed once it expires.

The video below was broadcast by NBC on Thursday, March 22, 2012.

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Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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