Bill Lee, who led the Sanford, Florida police department at the time Trayvon Martin was killed, has been fired, NBC News reports.
Norton Bonaparte, the city manager who this spring negotiated a severance with Lee, only to have Lee’s resignation rejected by the Sanford city commission, made the announcement in a statement 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. We need to move forward with a police chief that all the citizens of Sanford can support,” Bonaparte’s statement read.
Lee was placed on paid leave in March, after weeks of protests over the failure to arrest George Zimmerman, who shot Martin to death February 26th.
Lee’s defenders on the commission, including Commissioner Patty Mahany, whose district the fatal shooting took place in, and Hal Uhrig, one of Zimmerman’s former attorneys, had actively sought to have Lee restored to his position, saying was being unfairly tarred for an investigation in which no police wrongdoing had been proven.
Critics of the police investigation say Zimmerman should have been arrested immediately after the shooting.
Sanford has an interim police chief — the third chief to lead the department in three years. Lee took over the department after the former chief, Brian Tooley, was forced out a month before his planned retirement, in the wake of a scandal involving the videotaped beating of a homeless man by Justin Collison, a police lieutenant’s son. The initial failure to arrest Collison touched off a furor which, after the videotape went viral on Youtube, led to Tooley’s ousting.
Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, learned of Lee’s firing while attending the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans, where they and two of their attorneys are scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on their son’s killing on Thursday.
Reacting to the firing, attorney Benjamin Crump said: “The family’s response and statement is that the city manager of Sanford had an internal investigation into the matter concerning Bill Lee. He concluded that investigation and made his decision. The parents of Trayvon Martin respect the decision of the city manager. They remain vigilent in getting justice for their son and the tragedy that claimed his life.
Mr. Martin always thought that the killer of his son should have been arrested and he had to go, with Sabrina and a lot of people, to great lengths to have the killer of his son arrested. So, it is one of those things- he has always believed that (Zimmerman) should have been arrested when he killed his son.”
Sybrina Fulton, in her statement, focused on the family’s supporters.
“It’s just nice to see so many people that support us,” she said. “So many people that walk up to us just to give us a hug. Just to tell us that they support us. 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. It’s just good to know that there are good people and there are people who support us. We just want to say thank you and keep praying for us.”
Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport