Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. said Monday that his department has nearly completed “a thorough and fair investigation” into the fatal shooting of a Miami high school junior, but said police do not have anything at this point to dispute shooter George Zimmerman’s self-defense claim.
“Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don’t have the grounds to arrest him,” Lee said of Zimmerman. According to police, Zimmerman, 26, the captain of a neighborhood crime watch group, told them that he shot Trayvon Martin, 17, in self-defense after an altercation on the night of Feb. 26.
Martin, who attended Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School in Miami, was visiting his father and his father’s fiancée at The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford and walking home from a 7-Eleven when, police said, Zimmerman called them using a non-emergency line and reported a suspicious person in the area. He followed Martin from his car, according to police.
Several callers told police that they saw a fight and heard a gunshot. Zimmerman, with the gun, was bleeding from his nose and head when authorities arrived, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Lee said that afterward police took Zimmerman into investigative detention and took his gun, which is being tested.
Zimmerman has not been arrested. Martin’s family has made many calls for that to happen.
Neighbor James Davis responded to Lee's comments Monday by saying, "This police chief is setting policy in regard to a black man in a predominantly white neighborhood."
Some members of the African-American community left the press conference outraged, saying that Martin was a victim of racial profiling.
"It becomes racial because Zimmerman thought that black males with hoodies are criminals," said attorney Natalie Jackson, who is representing Martin's family.
Lee said what transpired "indeed has been a tragedy, especially for the Martin family, for the community members that live in that community, and for the city of Sanford.”
“We understand that it seems like this has taken us a long time to complete this investigation,” he added, but said police expected to finish it later Monday, before handing the case over to the State Attorney’s Office Tuesday morning.
He alluded to “reaching some form of justice with this event.”
“We just want the community to know that the Sanford Police Department will do a complete and fair investigation in any case so we can reach a fair and just decision,” he said.