Commissioner weighs in death of a teenager in Sanford - FOX 13 News

Commissioner weighs in on shooting death of a teenager in Sanford

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Sanford City Commissioner Velma Williams has some strong opinions when it comes to Police Chief Bill Lee. She wants him out, at least until the city sorts out the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of a teenager. 

"It would be prudent to ask Chief Lee to step aside until the investigation is over. I have to be fair," she said.

It has been over two weeks since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.  Police say Zimmerman, 25, claims he acted in self defense, but as each day passes, members of the community are getting more and more angry.

On Tuesday, the NAACP announced it has asked federal authorities for help with the investigation into Martin's death.

Williams wants to know why Zimmerman hasn't been charged with anything.  While Chief Lee would not comment, police spokesperson Sgt. Dave Morgenstern said, "He wants to continue doing his job as the Chief of Police and continue doing a good job."

Chief Lee has said that there is not enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman. Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett says there will be consequences if mistakes have been made in the investigation.

"If it's not handled properly we'll take the appropriate actions I can guarantee you that," said Triplett.

The mayor met with Chief Lee after a church rally on Wednesday. He said the two were, "talking about what we can do to try to help bring some calm and what not, to the community." The mayor added, "We were just talking about the meeting and what we can do as a city to try and help repair some of the broken fence panels if you will, that we have here now."

The investigation has now been handed over to the State Attorney's Office. A community rally is planned in front of City Hall on March 26.


Police department responds to ABC News report

Sanford police officers are defending themselves following a report by ABC News saying they corrected a witness statement and asked leading questions prompting a witness to say Zimmerman screamed for help in self defense before shooting and killing Martin.

Sgt. Morgenstern said on Tuesday evening, "Nobody has changed any witness statements."

The report also says a narcotics investigator arrived on scene first, instead of a homicide investigator.

"They responded to the scene, and yes, a narcotics investigator did do the initial interview," said Sgt. Morgenstern. "Our on-call investigator responded to the scene along with other investigators, which includes narcotics investigators and they're all still investigators."

We talked to the witness in the article, who doesn't want to be identified. She agreed with police, saying the officer did not change her statement, but only told her that it was Zimmerman who screamed for help. The problem police and neighbors are struggling with is that no one saw the whole fight or the shooting in the dark. Witnesses have said they only heard the screams of the boy.

Sgt. Morgenstern said investigators hope the public will be patient while the case is under review. "I've heard a lot of people say they've lost respect for the police department. I'm sorry the people are feeling that way, but they have to give us the opportunity to do our job, and in the end, they'll see we did a fair and complete investigation."



"We have through the NAACP put a letter to the U.S Attorney General to dispatch some agents here in Sanford to take this case and investigate," said Turner Clayton Jr., the Seminole County NAACP's president who took to the airwaves on Tuesday. Clayton said a letter has been sent to U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder. "They have the authority to take this case over. They also have the authority to bring charges for civil rights violations," said Clayton.

The NAACP is outraged that Sanford Police have taken volunteer neighborhood watch commander George Zimmerman at his word and that he hasn't been charged. Clayton believes the police have probable cause arrest Zimmerman.

"He was following the guy. He was told to stand down after making calls to the police department," said Clayton.  "And of course, he got out of his vehicle to approach this guy, which he did not have authorization to do or authority to do.  All that leads up to probably cause."

Clayton also announced a town hall style meeting next Tuesday where Sanford residents can ask Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee directly about this case. He says it's not just locals who have questions.

"We've had many calls from around the United States... citizens that want to come down and take part in any kind of rally or protest we have."

According to Clayton, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson have called local NAACP leaders to pledge their support and have asked to be updated when an official date for a rally has been set.

"A powder keg is brewing in the community. If we don't do something, it's likely to explode," said Clayton.

Sanford Police would not comment on the Martin case on Tuesday, except to say they have handed the case over to state prosecutors.

The agency held a news conference on Monday where Chief Lee said telephone recordings placed on the night of the shooting would not be released until the State Attorney's Office has completed its investigation.

"It is our desire to make sure that we do a thorough and fair investigation," said Chief Lee, "so that we can reach some form of justice."

Zimmerman's firearm was secured when he was taken in for questioning following the shooting, and the gun is presently in the custody of law enforcement and has been submitted as evidence, said Lee.  Investigators said Zimmerman had the proper permits to carry a weapon.

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