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City Criticizes Police Chief After Shooting

Posted by streetcarman1 on Thu Mar 22 15:54:44 2012, in response to Feds Now Investigating Trayvon Martin Murder, posted by JayZeeBMT on Tue Mar 20 08:49:59 2012.

From the NYTIMES.COM:

March 22, 2012

City Criticizes Police Chief After Shooting

By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
MIAMI — Facing mounting protests over the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer, the Sanford City Commission voted on Wednesday that they had no confidence in the city’s police chief.

The vote of 3 to 2 came on a day when demonstrators, many wearing hoodies as Trayvon Martin, 17, was when he was shot to death on Feb. 26, marched in New York City and Miami. The marchers demanded that the police arrest George Zimmerman, the watch volunteer in Sanford, a small city north of Orlando.

Mr. Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic, told the police that he shot Trayvon in self-defense after an altercation. The teenager was walking home from a convenience store, where he bought iced tea and Skittles, when he was shot once in the chest.

The commissioners cannot fire the police chief, Bill Lee Jr., who reports to the city manager. Norton Bonaparte, the city manager, said he would take the no-confidence vote under advisement.

Velma Williams, one of three city commissioners who voted no confidence at the three-hour special meeting, said afterward that she could not understand why the police had not made an arrest in the case. “Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder can see through all of this,” she said.

But Commissioner Randy Jones, who chose not to vote against the police chief, was not so sure, saying Chief Lee was welcoming a review of the department’s handling of the shooting. “The wheels of justice turn at 55 miles per hour, to make sure it’s deliberate, that everything lines up,” Mr. Jones said.

Chief Lee has served only 10 months leading a police department that has had a troubled relationship with blacks in Sanford. His predecessor, Brian Tooley, was forced out of the job after a scandal that involved a police lieutenant’s son. The son attacked a homeless man in December 2010 but the police did not immediately arrest him after the episode, which was recorded on video. Even after being sent a video of the attack, Chief Tooley failed to act promptly.

This came five years after two white security guards killed a black teenager. One of the guards was the son of a former Sanford police officer and the other was a volunteer in the department. The security guards claimed self-defense, saying that the black teenager tried to run them over. The teenager died from a gunshot wound in his back.

A judge dismissed the case over lack of evidence. The case inflamed passions in the town about the treatment of blacks by the criminal justice system.

“There is one issue after another here between the Police Department and the black community,” said Turner Clayton, president of the Seminole County branch of the N.A.A.C.P.

The Department of Justice and the state attorney in Seminole County have opened inquiries into the shooting.

Joseph Freeman contributed reporting from Sanford, Fla.




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