(SANFORD, Fla.) — Sanford, Fla., Police Chief Bill Lee is stepping down “temporarily” amid accusations that his department bungled its investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed teen, Trayvon Martin.
“It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process,” Lee told reporters, adding that it had become “a distraction from the investigation.”
As he temporarily withdrew from running the department and the investigation into the 17-year-old’s death at the hands of a neighborhood watchman, Lee said he stood by the investigation and the officers involved.
The FBI is now examining 911 tapes, which include a possible racial slur muttered by Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood crime watch volunteer, reportedly has admitted pursuing Martin, confronting him and, after a scuffle, shooting him dead. Zimmerman claims the shooting was in self defense.
Some believe local authorities botched the investigation from the start.
Martin, who was black, was carrying only a bag of skittles, a bottle of iced tea and his cell phone, when Zimmerman allegedly killed him on Feb. 26. While Martin’s family has repeatedly called for his arrest, Sanford Police accepted and stood by Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.
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Chris Boyette, CNN
Jennifer Graham, Deseret News
Eliott C. McLaughlin and Holly Yan, CNN