While he's saying that he's "become a distraction" to the Trayvon Martin case, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr.'s biggest problem was taking George Zimmerman's word for it, then not actually investigating anything. There's also the little matter of those who overheard the shooting saying officers tried to coerce them into saying it was Zimmerman screaming for help and not 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Whether or not a murder took place is for a jury to decide, not the Sanford Police Department. Lee announced his stepping down is only "temporary" after a 3-to-2 "no-confidence" vote from the Sanford City Commission.
From The New York Times:
He defended his department’s handling of the Feb. 26 shooting of the unarmed teenager, but he said he had realized that his role had “become a distraction” for the investigation, prompting his decision to step aside.
“While I stand by the Sanford Police Department, its personnel and the investigation that was conducted in regards to the Trayvon Martin case, it is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process,” he said at a news conference. “Therefore, I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself from the position as the police chief of the City of Sanford. I do this in hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to this city, which has been in turmoil for several weeks.”
Also today, the "Million Hoodie March" was held in Union Square in New York where protesters joined Martin's parents in calling for Zimmerman to be arrested.
Martin was unarmed back in February when Zimmerman "confronted" the teen because he deemed him "suspicious." Martin was visiting his father as his dad's fiancée had a home in Zimmerman's neighborhood.
Zimmerman, not a police officer, was an "unofficial" one-man Neighborhood Watch, armed with a gun. He went after Martin even after a 911 dispatcher told him not to follow the child or go after him. According to the 911 tapes, Zimmerman found it "suspicious" that a teenage boy might try to evade a creepy stranger following him in a car. Thus leading to a gross misunderstanding turned homicide instead of a much more benign, kid-walks-home-from-7-11-unharmed-after-buying-candy scenario.
Elsewhere, the public continues to wait and see if anyone will arrest Zimmerman since, for Martin, looking "suspicious" was worthy of a death sentence from a self-appointed vigilante who concerned neighbors.
From The Miami Herald (Emphasis mine):
Zimmerman told neighbors about stolen laptops and unsavory characters. Ibrahim Rashada, a 25-year-old African American who works at U.S. Airways, once spotted young men cutting through the woods entering the complex on foot, and later learned items were stolen those days.
“It’s a gated community, but you can walk in and steal whatever you want,” Rashada’s wife, Quianna, said.
They discussed the topic with Zimmerman when the watch captain knocked on their door late last year. Zimmerman seemed friendly, helpful, and a “pretty cool dude,” Ibrahim Rashada said.
“He came by here and talked about carrying guns and getting my wife more involved with guns,” he said. “He said I should have a weapon and that his wife took classes to learn how to use one.
“I do have a weapon, but I don’t walk around the neighborhood with mine!”
Actually, he does not walk around the neighborhood at all.
“I fit the stereotype he emailed around,” he said. “Listen, you even hear me say it: ‘A black guy did this. A black guy did that.’ So I thought, ‘Let me sit in the house. I don’t want anyone chasing me.’ ”
For walks, he goes downtown. A pregnant Quianna listened to her husband’s rationale, dropped her head, and cried.
“That’s so sad,” she said. “I hope our child doesn’t have to go through that.”
The point that a man was afraid to walk around in his own neighborhood for fear of being seen as a criminal points to my earlier post about how we often find ourselves internalizing the stereotypes and victimization, acting as guilty people when we are innocent, trying extra hard to be "good" only to find it doesn't work.
Choosing to not walk in your own neighborhood because you're afraid someone will accuse you of being a criminal is an uncomfortable truth many of us have experienced. And Martin's death proves this man's fear wasn't unfounded. Just another day in the life of being viewed with suspicion simply for the color of your skin. Another day avoiding doing something everyone else takes for granted because you're afraid someone will think you're Willie Horton in running shorts.
I feel so sorry for an innocent person who has to modify their behavior when it has absolutely no effect on others bigotry. Someone else's hatred is not your problem, as having black neighbors he knew and spoke on friendly terms didn't make Zimmerman stop and consider that when he was targeting blacks as criminals he was targeting the same residents he called himself "protecting."