Thursday, March 22, 2012

Trayvon Martin's Parents Call for Shooter's Arrest; Cop Chief Steps Aside Temporarily

March 22, 2012 6:17 PM

Trayvon Martin parents call for shooter's arrest

(CBS/AP) SANFORD, Fla. - The parents of an unarmed black teenager who was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer say they are not satisfied that the Sanford police chief is temporarily stepping down.

Tracy and Sybrina Martin told hundreds of supporters at a rally Thursday that they want George Zimmerman arrested in the shooting death of their son, Trayvon Martin.

"We want an arrest, we want a conviction for the murder of our son," said his father, Tracy Martin.

Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, who stood alongside Martin's parents said, "We don't need temporary relief, we need permanent change."

The parents made their remarks just hours after Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said he would temporarily step aside to let passions cool.

Lee said Thursday he had become a "distraction" in the case and that he would "temporarily remove himself" from his position. Sanford's city manager said that he would seek an interim police chief.

Lee said he stands by his agency's decision not to arrest Zimmerman, who claims the Feb. 26 shooting was self-defense.

Civil rights groups have been holding rallies, saying the shooting was not justified. The 17-year-old black teen was killed inside a gated Florida community on his way back from the convenience store.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman has maintained he shot Martin in self-defense, which is permitted under Florida law if the shooter believes his life is in danger.

Martin's parents met with Robert O'Neill, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, and Roy L. Austin Jr., who is deputy assistant attorney general of the department's Civil Rights Division.

The State Attorney's Office is reviewing the case, which will be presented to a grand jury next month.

However, the Justice Department earlier this week agreed to open a federal civil rights probe into the Feb. 26 shooting.


Embattled Fla. police chief steps down temporarily

By KYLE HIGHTOWER, Associated Press

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — The police chief who has been bitterly criticized for not arresting a neighborhood watch volunteer in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager announced Thursday that he is temporarily stepping down to let passions cool.

Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee's decision came less than a day after city commissioners gave him a "no confidence" vote, and after a couple of weeks of protests and uproar on social media websites. Lee has said evidence in the case supported George Zimmerman's claim that the Feb. 26 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was self-defense.

"I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to a city which has been in turmoil for several weeks," Lee said.

Martin was returning from a trip to a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers he looked suspicious. At some point, the two got into a fight and Zimmerman pulled out his gun.

Zimmerman told police Martin attacked him after he had given up on chasing the teenager and was returning to his sport utility vehicle.

The shooting ignited racial tensions in this Orlando suburb. Civil rights groups have held rallies in Florida and New York, saying the shooting was unjustified.

The police chief continued Thursday to stand behind his agency's investigation.

"As a former homicide investigator, a career law enforcement officer and a father, I am keenly aware of the emotions associated with this tragic death of a child. I'm also aware that my role as a leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation," Lee said.

It wasn't immediately how long the police chief would step aside. Martin's parents said that wasn't enough, and that Zimmerman should be taken into custody.

"We want an arrest, we want a conviction and we want him sentenced for the murder of my son," Martin's father, Tracy, said to fiery crowd of about 1,000 supporters in downtown Sanford.

Some people believed the police chief should step down for good.

"If they wanted to defuse a potential powder keg, he needed to resign," said pastor Eugene Walton, 58, who was born and raised in Sanford. "His inaction speaks loudly to the black community."

News of the police chief's decision to step aside spread quickly among the protesters, many of whom showed up more than two hours before the start of the rally. They chanted "The chief is gone. Zimmerman is next."

Some carried signs that said: "100 years of lynching, justifiable homicide. Same thing." Others sold T-shirts that read: "Arrest Zimmerman."

"It's the norm around here, where anything involving black culture, they want to wipe their hands of it," said Shella Moore, who is black and grew up in Sanford.

The Justice Department and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation, and the local prosecutor has convened a grand jury April 10 to determine whether to charge Zimmerman.

Before the rally, Martin's parents met with the local U.S. attorney, the deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights in Washington and the head of the FBI's Tampa office to discuss the investigation.

"We listened carefully to the concerns of the family and their representatives," Special Agent Dave Couvertier, an FBI spokesman, said in a statement. "We continue to extend our deepest condolences to Trayvon's family for their loss."

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