Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. announced Thursday that he is temporarily removing himself as the city's police leader. He acknowledged that his presence as the department's chief had become a distraction amid growing public pressure for the arrest of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin's shooter.
The Sanford Police Department has a new interim chief, City Manager Norton Bonaparte said Tuesday.
Richard Meyers, former Chief of Police in Colorado Springs, was offered the spot after an extensive search which began in March, Bonaparte said.
Meyers, a 35-year veteran of law enforcement, takes over for Capt. Darren Scott, who has served as interim chief after Chief Bill Lee temporarily stepped down in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting.
"We Thank Captain Scott for his service to the City during these tumultuous times. He has been an exemplary leader," Bonaparte said in a statement. "The City welcomes the leadership of Interim Chief Myers."
Lee came under heavy criticism for his handling of the Miami Gardens teen's shooting death in a gated community on Feb. 26. Shooter George Zimmerman wasn't charged until 44 days after the shooting.
Lee has said that Zimmerman was not arrested the night of the incident because his self-defense claim “was supported by physical evidence and testimony,” and police were thus prohibited from arresting him “based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time."
Zimmerman was ultimately charged with second-degree murder by a special prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey, and has pleaded not guilty.
Last month, Sanford City commissioners voted 3-2 to not accept Lee's resignation, after Bonaparte told the commission that Lee decided he could no longer serve as chief.
Lee remains on paid administrative leave.