Trayvon Martin case: Sanford, Fla., names interim police chief

An interim police chief has been chosen in Sanford, Fla., where the controversial handling of the Trayvon Martin slaying has sparked national outrage and a mess over who should be the city’s top law enforcement official.

A news release Tuesday announced that Sanford’s city manager, Norton N. Bonaparte Jr., had selected as interim chief Richard Myers, a 35-year police veteran who formerly headed the Colorado Springs, Colo., police department.

Myers is expected to begin leading the department at the end of this week. But the release also notes that the original chief, Bill Lee, remains on paid administrative leave.


Lee stepped down temporarily in March as concerns about his handling of the Martin case mounted nationwide. He tendered his resignation on April 23, but it was rejected by the Sanford City Commission in a 3-2 vote. Patty Mahany, one of the commissioners who rejected the resignation, has said that Lee was offered up as a “scapegoat” to placate out-of-town protesters.

It was unclear how the city planned to move forward with two chiefs on the payroll. Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Martin, an unarmed African American teenager, was fatally shot on Feb. 26 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman after Zimmerman called a police dispatcher and reported Martin as a suspicious character.

Zimmerman, of white and Peruvian heritage, says he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin confronted him.

The Sanford Police Department initially declined to arrest Zimmerman. On March 12, Lee said that there was no evidence to disprove Zimmerman’s version of events.

Some observers contend that if the races had been reversed -- that is, if the shooter had been black -- he would not have been allowed to remain free.

A special prosecutor appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott eventually charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder. Zimmerman turned himself in on April 11, was released on $150,000 bond on April 23, and is currently awaiting trial.

A Sanford police captain, Darren Scott, has served as acting chief since Lee stepped down.

Lee also has served as chief of police departments in Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin, according to the city of Sanford.

He’s the author of a textbook called “The Future of Policing: A Practical Guide for Police Managers and Leaders.”


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