The police chief of Sanford, Florida on Thursday said that he would temporarily step aside because he had become a distraction in the case of an unarmed teen that was killed by a neighborhood watch leader.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference, Police Chief Bill Lee insisted that he and his department had done nothing wrong by not arresting George Zimmerman for gunning down 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
“While I stand by the Sanford Police Department, its personnel and the investigation that was conducted in regards to the Trayvon Martin case, it is apparent that my involvement in the matter is overshadowing the process,” he explained. “Therefore, I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself from the position as police chief of the city of Sanford.”
“I do this in hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to this city, which has been in turmoil for several weeks.”
Lee’s short statement was met with applause from some of those gathered to hear him speak.
City Manager Norton Bonaparte said that the search for an interim police chief would begin immediately. The city has been under intense pressure from civil rights groups who say that Lee refused to fully investigate Martin’s death.
“What the city wants more than anything else for the Trayvon Martin family is justice,” Bonaparte told reporters. “We are looking for a complete, thorough review and that justice will prevail.”
The city manager declined to say exactly how long Lee’s “temporary” departure would be.
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast March 22, 2012.