Empowered by the sudden, though undeniably hard-fought removal of the city’s controversial top cop, the people of Sanford – upwards of 30,000 strong at the Trayvon Martin justice and peace rally at Fort Melton Park – are now requesting that the since-summoned U.S. Department of Justice also delve into the seemingly systematic pattern of egregious police misconduct that has longed dogged their community.
“No longer will the people of Sanford stand for this kind of treatment,” said Turner Clayton, head of the local NAACP and one of the rally’s many keynote speakers. “No longer will they idly stand by and watch as their loved ones and family members are so clearly disrespected and mistreated by the very people that are empowered to protect them.”
Even as the crowd of thousands continued to swell, life-size pictures of Martin, the 17-year-old unarmed teen slain by a trigger-happy, self-appointed neighborhood watch crime captain, proudly filled the air.
Martin died of a single gunshot wound to chest back on Feb. 26 as he walked through the gated Twin Lakes neighborhood of his father’s home by George Zimmerman, who has since told authorities he deemed the teen suspicious because he was wearing a hoodie and walking at a leisurely pace.
Despite being instructed by police not to follow the high-schooler, the 28-year-old, 240-pound confessed cop wannabe continued to do so, and within minutes inexplicably jumped from his vehicle to confront the unsuspecting teen face to face.
“The a–holes always get away,” Zimmerman muttered to a police dispatcher before taking his deadly actions. Later, he appears to utter the even more offensive “f—ing c**ns” as he approached Martin.
Even in the face of all that ammunition, Sanford police have yet to charge Zimmerman in connection with the shooting, and several potentially key witnesses have contended they have been slow or negligent in speaking with them about what they heard and observed that night regarding the shooter’s apparent over-aggressive nature.
“I want justice for my son, plain and simple,” said Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father. “I made a promise that until the day I die, I will be seeking justice for my son.”
Given all the outrage, Sanford police chief Bill Lee announced on Thursday – one day after he received a vote of no-confidence from city commissioners – that he will be temporarily stepping down from his post as the case plays out. The city’s much maligned local state attorney Norman Wolfinger also announced he had recused himself.
“It’s become obvious to me that I have become a distraction,” said Lee. “I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to a city which has been in turmoil for several weeks.”
Later, reports surfaced that Lee only agreed to step down after intense pressure from City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr., who himself faced a potential groundswell of recall petitioning without acting.
“As a former homicide investigator, a career law enforcement officer and a father, I am keenly aware of the emotions associated with the tragic death of a child,” Lee added.
One can only wonder where those sentiments might have been when Lee allowed Zimmerman to walk away the night of Feb. 26 with nary an explanation for his actions or for letting Det. Anthony Raimondo initially assume the lead in the investigation.
Reports have since surfaced that not only does Raimondo have several stains for misconduct on his record, but he once allowed the son of a high-ranking police officer and grandson of a local judge to walk free after savagely attacking a local homeless man.
“We will not go away,” said Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump. “We will not rest until an arrest of George Zimmerman has been made in the cold-blooded murder of Trayvon Martin.”
Also on Thursday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed Jacksonville area state’s attorney Angela Corey as the lead on the case and convened a task force led by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carrooll to conduct hearings and make recommendations related to the case and the controversial “Stand Your Ground” state law. A grand jury panel has already been convened to hear evidence on April 10.
“I’m elated that the chief decided to step aside and allow the city to heal,” said Clayton. “But it will be a whole lot better if he just goes ahead and resigns permanently. This is just a temporary fix for right now; we’re looking for a permanent fix.”
Meanwhile, a more elaborate portrait of George Zimmerman began to emerge, prompting some to conclude that it offers a clearer picture of just where his arguably warped sense of entitlement seems to stem from.
Records show Zimmerman’s father was a longtime magistrate Supreme Court judge in Virginia, and his mother was a deputy court clerk for more than two decades.
“It’s a nightmare … it’s hard to sleep,” said Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother. “Everything reminds me of him. And the only thing that’s fueling us to keep pressing on for justice is the fact that we know that justice will be served.”