Skip to main content

Sanford police chief fired in wake of Trayvon Martin case

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:29 AM EDT, Thu June 21, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Martin family lawyer: "We've continued to move closer to justice"
  • City manager cites "escalating divisiveness" in Sanford
  • The former police chief drew criticism for not charging George Zimmerman
  • 911 tapes show Trayvon Martin's father did not know of his son's fate the next day

(CNN) -- Sanford, Florida, Police Chief Bill Lee, who drew criticism for his department's actions in the Trayvon Martin case, was fired Wednesday.

"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," City Manager Norton Bonaparte said in a news release.

"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."

Lee will receive a three-month severance and a week's salary in addition to any earned time off.

As a search for Lee's replacement is carried out, interim Chief Richard W. Myers will remain on the job.

Hear new 911 calls in Trayvon case
Zimmerman prosecutor's political motives
New evidence in Zimmerman case
Crump: If Trayvon lied, he'd be in jail

Late Wednesday night, representatives of the Martin family said they "respected" the city manager's decision.

"It's important that we really believe that, as all of this has unfolded, we've continued to move closer to justice," said family attorney Daryl Parks.

Timeline of events in Trayvon Martin case

Lee had submitted a resignation letter in April that said he was stepping down, but city commissioners voted not to accept it.

In March, he had said he was stepping down temporarily in the wake of the public furor over the failure of the police to arrest George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who has said his shooting of Martin on February 26 was an act of self-defense.

Also Wednesday, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office released 911 tapes of calls placed the morning after the shooting, when police had still not identified the 17-year--old victim. He was unarmed and carrying no identification when he was shot while walking to his father's girlfriend's house after picking up some snacks at a nearby store.

In the first call, Trayvon Martin's father, Tracy Martin, calls police at 8:39 a.m. asking to file a missing persons report, which typically would not be accepted until 24 hours after a person has been discovered missing. "It hasn't really been 24 hours," he tells the police dispatcher. "But I'm from Miami and my son's up here with me ... he don't know anybody up here."

Documents shed light of Trayvon Martin killing

In the return call, placed nine minutes later, the dispatcher tells the victim's father that an officer is en route to where he was staying.

Lee had said Zimmerman was not charged in the shooting because there were no grounds to disprove his account of the events -- that Martin had attacked him. Since then, Zimmerman has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

The incident sparked a national debate as to whether the shooting was an act of racial profiling by Zimmerman and about the state's "stand-your-ground" law.

Jailhouse calls show Zimmerman, wife talking in code

During an appearance at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said the family has been heartened by the response from the community.

"It's just nice to see so many people that support us, so many people that walk up to us just to give us a hug. Just to tell us that they support us," she said. "It does the heart good. Yes, we still are hurting. We just had to go through a Mother's Day and a Father's Day and it hurts. It just hurts."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
George Zimmerman
updated 8:50 PM EST, Wed February 5, 2014
Let's get ready to ... mumble.
updated 8:35 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
George Zimmerman, who sold his first painting on eBay for a whopping $100,000, is at it again.
updated 2:41 PM EDT, Sun September 29, 2013
George Zimmerman's estranged wife said that while she respects the jury's not guilty verdict in his second-degree murder trial, she now has doubts about his innocence.
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Sun July 28, 2013
George Zimmerman's defense team says people should delve into the "substance" of other comments made by a juror who claimed the man who killed Trayvon Martin "got away with murder."
updated 1:12 PM EDT, Sun July 28, 2013
A juror in the George Zimmerman trial says she feels the man who killed Trayvon Martin "got away with murder."
updated 3:52 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
Four days after he was acquitted of murder, George Zimmerman stepped out of seclusion to help a family.
updated 1:09 PM EDT, Sun July 28, 2013
Florida law kept George Zimmerman from being held accountable in last year's shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, the teen's mom said.
updated 10:10 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
Vowing to keep fighting for his son Trayvon -- even after Zimmerman was acquitted of murder -- Tracy Martin said that his family wants to turn "negative energy" surrounding their plight "into a positive."
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Sat July 20, 2013
The nation has a long history of self-defense laws. Almost every state allows some version of the "castle" defense, as in "a man's home is his castle."
updated 12:43 AM EDT, Thu July 18, 2013
The woman known as Juror B37 in the George Zimmerman trial released a statement exclusively to CNN pushing for new laws.
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
One of the jurors who acquitted George Zimmerman said she had "no doubt" he feared for his life in the final moments of his struggle with Trayvon Martin.
updated 8:54 AM EDT, Wed July 17, 2013
George Zimmerman "didn't do anything unlawful" and was "justified" in shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, according to one of the jurors who acquitted Zimmerman.
updated 1:04 AM EDT, Wed July 17, 2013
The friend who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin when his fatal confrontation with Zimmerman said she is upset at his acquittal on murder charges.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
His trial's over. And now it turns out that George Zimmerman might need the same thing millions of Americans are looking for: a job.
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Mon July 15, 2013
An employee of the Florida State Attorney's Office who testified that prosecutors withheld evidence from George Zimmerman's defense team has been fired.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Mon July 15, 2013
This might sound like a legal conundrum.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon July 15, 2013
Suspected racism in the justice system, deep-seated, secretive and historic, was the crux of the case for millions, writes Tom Foreman.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Fri March 30, 2012
Just like most any other teenager, Trayvon Martin enjoyed listening to music and going to the movies, friends and family said.
updated 3:38 PM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
With a single phrase, Rachel Jeantel, that friend of Trayvon Martin's, may have lit a fuse in the trial of his accused killer.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT