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Trayvon Martin case: Should Sanford police chief be fired?

Late Wednesday, Sanford city commissioners passed a motion of "no confidence" in Police Chief Bill Lee Jr., who has defended his department for not arresting George Zimmerman after he shot Trayvon Martin, a black teenager.

By Barbara ListonReuters / March 22, 2012

Trayvon Martin's parent's Tracy Martin, left, and Sybrina Fulton, center, during the 'Million Hoodie March' in New York City, Wednesday March. 21. The fatally shot Florida teenager was wearing a hoodie.

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)


Orlando, Fla.

Florida politicians and civil rights leaders joined calls for the firing of a police chief in the case of a neighborhood watch captain who killed an unarmed black teenager, as new details emerged on Wednesday about police handling of the investigation.

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"The reality is that people in this community have lost faith in the police chief's ability to keep their children safe," Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), told Reuters.

Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, echoed the call in an appearance on CNN. "Not only would I like to see it happen, but I'm joining with them to make sure it happens," Wilson said.

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Speaking in the US House of Representatives, Florida congresswoman Corrine Brown criticized the police investigation of the shooter, George Zimmerman, who remains free almost a month after gunning down 17-year-old Trayvon Martin outside a gated community in Sanford, near Orlando.

"No drug tests. No alcohol tests. No lie detector tests. It's just his word that he felt threatened, so therefore he shot to kill. That is unacceptable," said Brown, who is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Martin's killing has sparked widespread outrage since the release of 911 emergency tapes last week.

Late on Wednesday, city commissioners in Sanford passed a motion of "no confidence" in Police Chief Bill Lee Jr., who has said the department acted properly in not arresting Zimmerman after the shooting.

The commission voted 3-2 in favor of the motion, according to Commissioner Patty Mahany. The commission, however, cannot fire Lee, who reports to Sanford's city manager.

Zimmerman, toting a Kel Tek .9 mm PF9 semi-automatic handgun, spotted Martin walking back to his father's girlfriend's house after the teen bought candy and iced tea at a convenience store on Feb. 26.

Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, called police to report a "suspicious guy," and followed Martin despite the dispatcher's advice not to. Neighbors said they heard a scuffle, cries for help and then a gunshot.

Martin's girlfriend in Miami said she was talking on the cellphone with Martin at the time, and that she heard his running account of being followed and trying to get away from Zimmerman.

A police report made public on Wednesday said Martin's death was originally investigated as a homicide, specifically an "unnecessary killing to prevent an unlawful act."

The report, made by the first two officers to arrive at the scene of the shooting, cited a state law that says someone who unnecessarily kills another person while trying to prevent that person from committing an unlawful act, "shall be deemed guilty of manslaughter."

The report said that when the first officer arrived, Martin was lying "face-down on the ground" with his hands beneath him and that Zimmerman told the officer "that he had shot the subject and he (Zimmerman) was still armed."

The officer said he handcuffed Zimmerman and removed the gun and holster from inside Zimmerman's waistband, and saw that his back was "wet and covered in grass" and that he was "bleeding from the nose and back of his head."

Zimmerman was put in the backseat of a police cruiser, given first aid by paramedics and taken to the police station to be interviewed by investigators.

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