Trayvon Martin case has taken a new turn. Four months after the killing of a Black teenager the infamous George Zimmerman case took a new turn with the dismissal of Sanford, Florida, police chief on Wednesday.
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, had to finally go as his department failed to arrest the self-appointed neighbourhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, in the February 26 shooting of unarmed 17-year old Black youth, Trayvon Martin, on what it pleaded, Stand Your Ground law.
Lee had been on paid leave since March 22 following widespread outrage and protest over his handling of the racially charged case.
According to Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte: “I have come to this decision in light of the escalating divisiveness that has taken hold of the city.”
“The police chief needs to have the trust and respect of the elected officials and the confidence of the entire community,” his statement said.
It needs to be recalled that after Martin’s shooting, Sanford police, under Lee’s command, declined to arrest Zimmerman based on his claim of self-defense. This action of the police evoked a wave of protest around the United States. The case was strongly debated in the Press as well as social media.
It was then argued by Lee that Stand Your Ground law of Florida allows shooters who feel threatened with freedom to fire rather than retreat.
However, later it came out that the Black teenager was unarmed, therefore, there was no threat to Zimmerman’s life. The documents released by the Police later showed that the lead investigator in the Sanford Police Department believed there was enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman for manslaughter. The investigator wrote in his summary that Martin was not involved in any criminal activity, and that Zimmerman could have avoided the encounter.
After much hue and cry the case was transferred by Florida Governor Rick Scott to a special prosecutor who subsequently charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder.
Lee will receive a severance or golden handshake of three months and one week of salary, plus payment for any earned time off.
Richard Myers is already serving as acting police chief and will continue to do so till the new full-fledged chief is appointed.
Earlier, Lee offered to resign under a separation agreement negotiated with Bonaparte, but that offer was rejected by a 3-2 vote of the city commission on April 23.
Discrimination by police is still common in the United States. It was the beating up of, now late, Rodney King, by Los Angeles Police in March 1991 that evoked widespread violence in the city a year later. Violence broke out when the two cops involved in the case were let off. Fifty-three people were killed in the riots. However, later the two cops were punished by the federal court.
King, a Black, died in California, last week.