Trayvon Martin Case: Sanford police chief temporarily steps down

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012 @ 7:23 AM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012 @ 3:58 PM

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced that he has temporarily stepped down as chief, during a press conference outside of Sanford City Hall on Thursday.

Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton said he is coming to Central Florida to lead a rally for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman.

The rally for Martin has been moved to Fort Mellon Park from the First Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, due to an overwhelming response, according to a tweet from Al Sharpton.

Sharpton also said on Thursday, via Twitter, that he is on a flight to Florida for the rally at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford on East First Street, despite the death of his mother.

Sharpton's 87-year-old mother, Ada, died early Thursday. Sharpton said his mother would have wanted him to attend the rally.

Zimmerman claimed he acted in self-defense, and he hasn't been arrested. The lack of arrest in the case has prompted outrage from civil rights activists, local leaders and people from around the country.

The case is being reviewed by the State Attorney's Office.



Martin's parents will meet with U.S. Justice Department officials before the rally. His parents, along with Sharpton will meet with the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida and the deputy assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division.

Sanford’s mayor said he is expecting as many as 20,000 people to gather at the park to rally for justice in the death of Martin.

However, an organizer of the event said he’s not expecting a crowd that large.

“We were anticipating initially that 2,000 people would roughly be in attendance,” said Dr. L. Ronald Durham.

Celia More attended a rally earlier in the week and plans to attend Thursday’s rally.church

“It could easily have gotten out of hand with something that's such a touchy subject. There are elderly people who are going to be there. There are children,” said More.

The rally is expected to draw people from around the country.

More than 200 people, including an Atlanta city council member, are on their way from a church in southeast Atlanta to attend.

WFTV has learned that local law enforcement agencies will be on hand to provide security for the event, but authorities won’t say which agencies will be involved.

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett said he is concerned about what could happen.

“There’s emails that walk the edge, and you hate to see it but you still have to take those things seriously,” said Triplett.

Downtown Sanford business owners said they have no plans to change operating hours because of the rally.

Theo Hollerbach, owner of the well-known Willow Tree Café, said his restaurant has 140 reservations for Thursday night and they had only 12 cancellations over fears about the rally.

He said he applauds the rally's efforts.

"It is people gathering for a good cause trying to make things right…I'm hoping they'll figure out a way to solve the issue," said Hollerbach.

The city is also preparing for another large event on Monday.

Sanford city officials said they have moved a planned town-hall-style meeting on Martin’s death from city hall to the city’s civic center, which can seat 600 people. They’ll provide outdoor seating for the event as well.

On Wednesday night, Commissioner Mark McCarty unexpectedly asked his fellow commissioners for a no confidence vote in Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee because of his handling of the investigation into the shooting.

"I don't see how he can continue," said McCarty.

"I am embarrassed because of this national shame," said City Commissioner Velma Williams.

While three of the five commissioners followed McCarty’s lead and cast the no confidence votes, it is City Manager Norton Bonaparte who will have the final say on Lee’s fate.

A number of residents in attendance cheered when the votes were cast.

The two commissioners who didn’t cast a vote of no confidence said they thought the vote was a knee-jerk reaction to the situation.

Rally Information:
  • Seminole Boulevard between Mellonville and Sanford Avenue, and First Street between San Juan Avenue and Sanford Avenue downtown, will be closed from 12:00 p.m. until the ending of the rally.  The Rally is expected to last two hours.  The Florida Highway Patrol, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, and the Department of Transportation will assist with traffic control.  Road signage will be on all major roadways.
  • Parking for cars is available at City Hall, the Seminole County Court House, and on-street parking.  Parking is limited and persons should carpool.  Bus drop off will be at the Sanford Chamber of Commerce, 400 East First Street.

Truck loses top beneath 'Graffiti Bridge'

Published: Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 10:52 PM
Updated: Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 10:52 PM

A box truck lost its top driving beneath a bridge -- and an artist’s video camera caught the accident as it happened.

Artist Roger Fine was working on a “Happy Holiday” mural at the Graffiti Bridge, a former train trestle turned artistic landmark, when a rental truck careened down the street and lost its top on the low-clearance overpass.

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The video was seen live a few weeks ago by followers of The Graffiti Bridge Facebook page but a clip of the impact was posted Friday.

A “Here’s Your Sign” T-Shirt, emblazoned with the image of a 10-foot, 8-inch yellow clearance sign, is for sale through the landmark’s website.

“We all know the inspiration behind this shirt, and well... It happened again,” the description reads. “It seems another truck driver ignored the signs and wanted to test the strength of his truck, and #TheGraffitiBridge won again.”

Truck drivers who hit the bridge can get a shirt for free. And while the bridge has been hit numerous times, no one has yet to take them up on the offer.

Tim Tebow scores first touchdown in two years in preseason debut with Eagles

Published: Sunday, August 16, 2015 @ 9:26 PM
Updated: Sunday, August 16, 2015 @ 9:26 PM

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It’s Tebow Time in Philadelphia - at least for the NFL preseason.

And Tim Tebow, the polarizing quarterback, scored a touchdown, his first in two years, in his preseason debut with the Eagles against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday.

The Eagles won 36-10.

Tebow was called into the game in the middle of the third quarter and got a standing ovation from the crowd, according to the Associated Press.

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Tebow had to quiet the crowd in order to take his shotgun snap.

Tebow is competing against Matt Barkley for the number three quarterback on the team. Tebow had not played since a 2013 preseason game when he was with the New England Patriots.

Couple celebrates 63 years of marriage with sweet photo shoot

Published: Thursday, August 04, 2016 @ 4:29 AM
Updated: Thursday, August 04, 2016 @ 4:29 AM

A wedding photographer commemorated her grandparents’ 63 years of marriage with a sweet photo shoot. Now that her grandfather’s health has put him in the hospital, she says she’s cherishing the photos more than ever before.

In November 2014, Joe Ray and Billie Wanda Johnson, otherwise known as Mamaw and Pawpa, posed for photos on their Jewett, Texas, ranch.

Photographer and granddaughter Shalyn Nelson posted the photos to Instagram.

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“My mom tells me all the time how much that day meant to my grandparents. They talk about it all the time,” Nelson told the Huffington Post.

Nelson says she learned so much from watching her grandparents’ love blossom even further over the years.

“My husband constantly reminds me that we will be old and gray, like them, walking hand-in-hand,” Nelson said.

Recently, Pawpa has been in-and-out of the hospital. According to an Instagram post, doctors initially told the family he wouldn’t make it though the night. Since then, he’s slowly been getting better.

All the while, Mawma has stayed by his side.

Nelson posted a sweet letter Pawpa wrote to his bride:

“Dearest Wanda, it’s been a long time since I have written you a letter. I think it was when I was working in Canada, that I wrote you last. Anyway, I still love you just as much, probably more. The years have gone by fast. One morning you just wake up and you are OLD. Anyway, I wouldn’t trade them for all the gold in Alaska. We had 3 great kids and lots of fun raising them. Most of the time. We carried them to movies, playgrounds, swimming, ballgames, parties, etc. I wish that we could bring back some of those days. Now they have kids of their own which we have watched them grow, and some now with kids of their own. We must be real old. The days we had at the Freez-It at Fairfield and The Dixie Queen at Jewett and built the Rocket Drive-In with a 30’ rocket ship on the roof, those were the very hard years with lots of hard work and no vacations. I still worked my engineering job in Houston thru the week, and weekends at the drive-in businesses. Later, we got smart and got out of the drive in business. Later I retired, and we moved back to Jewett. We got into the ranching business. We made a lake and called it Hidden Lake Ranch. Found out that was a lot of hard work too. Now that we are in our Golden years, I think that we have turned to rust with all the Dr.’s we see. Anyway, I will close this letter to you saying I love you as much today as the day I married you. And just think, the license only cost $2.00. The best bargain I ever made. With all my love for you, Joe.”

Nelson says she’s praying her grandfather gets better soon.

Florida man survives lightning strike, spider, snake bites

Published: Friday, August 26, 2016 @ 11:40 AM
Updated: Friday, August 26, 2016 @ 11:40 AM

Kyle Cook can't decide whether he's really unlucky or incredibly fortunate.

In the last four years, the 31-year-old Florida man has been struck by lightning, bitten by a venomous spider and -- most recently -- attacked by an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake in his back yard in Lakeland.

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His father, Mike Cook, calls his son "a walking Murphy's law."

The younger Cook was almost finished mowing the yard at his family's rented house on Aug. 11 when he heard a loud rattling sound. He saw the 5-foot snake about 3 feet away. As he moved back, he stepped on a stick. He says the noise provoked the snake, which struck him.

Media outlets reported that the fang marks were still visible on Cook's right ankle two weeks later.