Resignation of Chief in Trayvon Martin Case Not Accepted
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) — The Sanford, Florida, City Commission decided Monday not to accept the proposed resignation of its embattled police chief — who has been under fire for the handling of the probe into Trayvon Martin’s death in February.
Chief Bill Lee has been on leave since March 22, a day after the same city commission expressed a lack of confidence in him for how he’s handled the probe. George Zimmerman, who has said he killed the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense, was not arrested after being questioned by police the night of the shooting. He was charged weeks later with second-degree murder.
Earlier Monday, the city announced in a statement that a separation agreement had been reached with Lee to resign. If it was approved by the city commission, it would have taken effect at midnight.
But by a 3-2 vote, the city commission opted not to accept the proposed deal, which would have permanently dismissed Lee from the job and given him a severance package. Two commissioners had questioned the fairness of Lee losing his job, while Mayor Jeff Triplett said he preferred to wait possibly several months for the results of an investigation into Lee and his department.
“I’m not ready to have him come back and run the police department, but I don’t know if I’m ready for this either,” Triplett said of Lee’s resignation.
The case has drawn intense international attention for weeks, with Sanford citizens and many civil rights leaders from outside criticizing the police department for not immediately arresting Zimmerman, 28, after he shot the unarmed teenager.
Since Lee went on leave, Capt. Darren Scott has served as acting chief — a position he’ll remain in, for the time being.
Zimmerman was eventually charged after a special prosecutor investigated the case.
He left the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Sanford at 12:05 a.m. Monday after making bail.
Hours later, in documents filed in court by his attorney Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman entered a written not guilty plea and waived the right to appear at his arraignment. The arraignment had been scheduled for May 8.
It was not immediately known where Zimmerman headed after leaving the jail. Family members and O’Mara had stressed the need for secrecy regarding Zimmerman’s destination. Both he and his family have received threats, they said.
CNN’s Martin Savidge, Vivian Kuo, Leslie Tripp Holland and Holly Yan contributed to this report.