Trayvon Martin case: Sanford sheriff Bill Lee has vocal backers online

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SANFORD – While he awaits the Sanford city manager’s decision about whether his temporary stepping aside as police chief will become permanent, Bill Lee Jr., called “Billy Lee” by people in this small central Florida city, is not without supporters.

An email circulating this week between a current commissioner, the former mayor, and the head of a citizens advisory board is calling for Lee’s reinstatement as chief.

So far, the petition at — the same site where a petition on behalf of the parents of Trayvon Martin, killed by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford on February 26th has garnered more than 2 million signatures — has about 3,000 names on it.

Among those signing, and urging others by email to do the same: Linda Kuhn, the mayor of Sanford before she lost her re-election bid in November 2010 to current mayor Kenneth Triplett, Helen Mausser, president of the Sanford police department Citizens Advisory Board and Sanford commissioner Patty Mahaney, who notes in her comments that she cast one of only two votes opposing the “no confidence” measure that passed 3-2, just days before Lee announced he was temporarily stepping aside.

City manager Norton Bonaparte has said he is weighing what to do about Lee, whose department has been heavily criticized for not arresting George Zimmerman in the Martin slaying.

A police spokesman confirmed to theGrio that Lee went to the shooting scene that night, and lawyers for Martin’s family have asked the Justice Department to review the Sanford police department’s handling of the case.

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport