US 'Vigilante' Killing: Police Chief Steps Down

Hannah Thomas-Peter, in New York

The police chief in the US town that was the scene of a "vigiliante" killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white Neighbourhood Watch volunteer is stepping down. 

Bill Lee, the head of police in Sanford, Florida, said he had become a distraction from the investigation into the killing of Trayvon Martin, whose death has sparked national outrage and a protest march in New York. 

"Therefore, I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself from the position of police chief for the city of Sanford," he said.

He spoke after Trayvon's father told the rally in New York he "will not stop" until he gets justice for his 17-year-old son, who was killed in February.

Tracy Martin told the crowd gathered in a public square that Trayvon "did not deserve to die".

His shooter, 28-year-old George Zimmerman , told police Trayvon looked "suspicious" as he walked through a gated community and that he had killed him in self-defence.

Florida has a law, known as "stand your ground", which allows the use of deadly force if someone believes they are in danger of imminent death or great bodily harm.

Police did not arrest Zimmerman at the time of the shooting and have refused to arrest him since. 

Campaigners are now calling for the law to be overturned. 

Professor Patricia Broussard, constituion law profession at FAMU in Orlando, told Sky News that Zimmerman "acted as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner for Trayvon Martin".

She said: "Mr Martin received the death penalty from Zimmerman, the same person who is now being protected by those who say that he is being 'tried' in the media.

"Trayvon Martin was not been granted the same compassion that Zimmerman's defenders advocate for him. 

"This situation defies logic and places local government in an unflattering light which reflects around the world."

At the rally in New York, Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said: "This is not about a black and white thing, it's about a right and wrong thing."

Hundreds of people turned out for the New York "million hoodies" rally in support of Trayvon's family and to protest the lack of police action in the case.

They chanted "no justice, no peace" and "don't kill our sons". Many of them had hoods on, a reference to the fact that Trayvon was wearing a hooded top when he was killed.

The New York crowd chanted loudly "we want arrests" as the Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump said that Trayvon was just an innocent young man walking back from a visit to the local corner shop, and that he had every right to be in the gated community where he was shot dead.

The rally was organised on Facebook by Daniel Maree, a concerned citizen with no affiliation to any particular group.

He told Sky News Online: "I spent some time in Florida and as a young black man I experienced being stopped by the police for no other reason than I was black in a predominantly white neighbourhood.

"This rally is about supporting Trayvon's parents, for them to know that they have national support over this terrible tragedy, and that we will campaign for justice for their son."

Calls are now growing for the resignation of Sanford's police chief Bill Lee. Three separate investigations into the incident are ongoing.

The FBI and the Department of Justice are looking into the matter at a federal level, and the case is due shortly before a grand jury in Florida, where it will be up to state prosecutors to prove there is enough evidence for any criminal charges to be brought.