The police chief of Sanford, Fla., announced that he would temporarily step down amid mounting criticism nationwide regarding his department’s handling of the shooting death of an unarmed teenager last month.
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee’s decision to step down also comes one day after he received a 3-2 vote of no confidence from city commissioners, after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot dead on Feb. 26 by a neighborhood watch captain while walking home from a convenience store.
“As a former homicide investigator, a career law enforcement officer and a father, I am keenly aware of the emotions associated with this tragic death of a child,” Lee said on Thursday. “I’m also aware that my role as a leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation.”
“I do this,” the embattled police chief added, “in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to a city which has been in turmoil for several weeks.”
Martin was returning to a gated community when a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, spotted the black teenager leaving the store.
Zimmerman said that he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin attacked him, according to reports. Before the incident, the watch captain reported to police that he saw a “real suspicious guy” dressed in a hoodie.
Martin wasn’t in possession of any weapons when he was killed, according to reports. The only thing found on him after his death was skittles and an iced tea.
Zimmerman has not been charged in the teen’s tragic death.
Public outrage regarding the handling of the case led to several protests in recent days.
Community groups and supporters of Martin’s family gathered in Union Square Wednesday night to protest the shooting, and to also push for an end to racial profiling.
It’s unclear how long Lee will be away from his post as Top Cop.
Martin’s parents said his temporary resignation is not enough.
“We want an arrest, we want a conviction and we want him sentenced for the murder of my son,” Martin’s father told a crowd in Sanford, according to the Associated Press.
-With Associated Press