SANFORD, FL - The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin is bringing heated calls for the resignation of the local police chief, and the city's commissioners voted "no confidence" in the chief Wednesday night.
The commission voted 3-2 against Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee but can't fire him because the police chief reports to the city manager. City Manager Norton Bonaparte told the commissioners he would take their vote under advisement.
Earlier in the day, calls for firing Lee were met with standing ovations at an NAACP meeting here aimed at addressing outrage over the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon. The unarmed youth was shot Feb. 26 as he was returning to a gated community after buying candy at a convenience store.
The gunman, Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerman, has not been charged and has said he shot the teen in self-defense. Zimmerman had been following the youth on foot and called the police department to report possible suspicious behavior, but he said he lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck when he was attacked. Police said Zimmerman is white; his family says he is Hispanic.
"Any police chief who has so mishandled a situation like this has to go," NAACP national head Benjamin Jealous said. "We will ensure that justice is carried out here in Sanford."
Lee didn't respond to an interview request. Mayor Jeff Triplett said the city was standing by its chief for "right now."
Triplett said there were "conversations" involving the chief's status as recently as Wednesday morning.
"My (preference) is to wait until everything comes in and make a decision based on the facts," Triplett told USA TODAY. "But as you know, things can change very quickly. If we've done something wrong, we'll hold people accountable. That means everybody. We'll act swiftly. But as of right now, I'm standing with the city manager."
Bonaparte defended the police department's decision to not charge Zimmerman immediately after the shooting. "Zimmerman's statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon," the city manager wrote in an open letter on the Sanford municipal website.
"Mr. Zimmerman was not acting outside the legal boundaries of Florida Statute by carrying his weapon when this incident occurred," he wrote.
Trayvon's parents told hundreds of people at a march Wednesday night in New York City that they won't stop until they get justice for him.
"My son did not deserve to die," the teen's father, Tracy Martin, said.
By Kevin Johnson and Larry Copeland