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      Police chief in Trayvon Martin shooting steps down; Florida, D.C. rallies set

      Trayvon Martin, 17, had just bought candy from a convenience store when he was shot and killed by neighborhood watch.

      SANFORD, Fla. (AP) - The police chief who's been bitterly criticized for not arresting a neighborhood watch volunteer in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager and the county prosecutor both left the case Thursday, with the chief saying that he is temporarily stepping down to let passions cool.

      Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee's decision came less than a day after city commissioners gave him a "no confidence" vote, and after a couple of weeks of protests and uproar on social media websites. Lee has said evidence in the case supported George Zimmerman's assertion that the Feb. 26 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was in self-defense.

      "I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to a city which has been in turmoil for several weeks," Lee said.

      About three hours later, Gov. Rick Scott announced that the local state attorney, Norman Wolfinger, had recused himself from the case. In a letter to Scott, Wolfinger said that while he thought he could fairly oversee any prosecution that develops in the case, his recusal was aimed at "toning down the rhetoric and preserving the integrity of the investigation."

      Scott appointed Angela B. Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, to take over the case.

      Scott also appointed a task force led by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll to conduct hearings on the case and to make recommendations for any changes to state law or procedures. Carroll is African-American.

      Martin was returning from a trip to a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers he looked suspicious. At some point, the two got into a fight and Zimmerman pulled out his gun.

      Zimmerman told police Martin attacked him after he had given up on chasing the teenager and was returning to his sport utility vehicle. Police say the 28-year-old Zimmerman is white; his family says he's Hispanic.

      The shooting ignited resentment toward the police department in this Orlando suburb for not making an arrest. Civil rights groups have held rallies in Florida and New York, saying the shooting was unjustified.

      Thousands at a rally led by civil rights leader Al Sharpton at a downtown Sanford park on Thursday night demanded more be done.

      "We cannot allow a precedent when a man can just kill one of us ... and then walk out with the murder weapon," said Sharpton, flanked by Martin's parents and a stage full of supporters. "We don't want good enough. We want George Zimmerman in court with handcuffs behind his back."

      The police chief stood behind his agency's investigation.

      "As a former homicide investigator, a career law enforcement officer and a father, I am keenly aware of the emotions associated with this tragic death of a child. I'm also aware that my role as a leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation," Lee said in announcing he was stepping down for now.

      It wasn't immediately how long the police chief would step aside. Martin's parents said that wasn't enough, and that Zimmerman should be taken into custody.

      "We want an arrest, we want a conviction and we want him sentenced for the murder of my son," Martin's father, Tracy, said to the fiery crowd of rally goers.

      Some people said the police chief should step down for good.

      "If they wanted to defuse a potential powder keg, he needed to resign," said pastor Eugene Walton, 58, who was born and raised in Sanford. "His inaction speaks loudly to the black community."

      News of the police chief's decision to step aside spread quickly among the protesters, many of whom showed up more than two hours before the start of the rally. They chanted "The chief is gone. Zimmerman is next."

      Some carried signs that said: "100 years of lynching, justifiable homicide. Same thing." Others sold T-shirts that read: "Arrest Zimmerman."

      "It's the norm around here, where anything involving black culture, they want to wipe their hands of it," said Shella Moore, who is black and grew up in Sanford. The Justice Department and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation, and the prosecutor before he quit the case convened a grand jury April 10 to determine whether to charge Zimmerman.

      Before the rally, Martin's parents met with the local U.S. attorney, the deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights in Washington and the head of the FBI's Tampa office to discuss the investigation.

      "We listened carefully to the concerns of the family and their representatives," Special Agent Dave Couvertier, an FBI spokesman, said in a statement. "We continue to extend our deepest condolences to Trayvon's family for their loss."

      Police chief in Trayvon Martin shooting steps down; Florida, D.C. rallies set

      (WJLA, AP) -{}The police chief who has been bitterly criticized for not arresting a neighborhood watch volunteer in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin temporarily stepped down Thursday, saying he had become a distraction to the investigation.

      Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee and his officers decided not to arrest George Zimmerman after he shot 17-year-old Martin to death on Feb. 26.

      The shooting ignited racial tensions in this Orlando suburb. Civil rights groups have held rallies in Florida and New York, saying the shooting was unjustified. Late Wednesday, city commissioners in Sanford gave the police chief a "no confidence" vote.

      "I must temporarily remove myself from the position as police chief for the city of Sanford. I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to a city which has been in turmoil for several weeks," Lee said. "It is my hope that the investigation will move forward swiftly and appropriately through the justice system and that a final determination in this case is reached."

      The police chief has said authorities were prohibited from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time of the shooting. He said he continued to stand behind his agency's investigation.

      "As a former homicide investigator, a career law enforcement officer and a father, I am keenly aware of the emotions associated with this tragic death of a child. I'm also aware that my role as a leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation," Lee said.

      It wasn't immediately how long the police chief would step aside.

      The Justice Department and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation, and the local prosecutor has convened a grand jury April 10 to determine whether to charge Zimmerman. Some people believed the Lee should step down for good. "If they wanted to diffuse a potential powder keg, he needed to resign," said pastor Eugene Walton, 58, who was born and raised in Sanford. "His inaction speaks loudly to the black community."

      Trayvon Martin shooting: Florida, D.C. rallies set for Trayvon Martin

      Trayvon Martin's family will meet with the Justice Department Thursday to demand answers about the way their son's shooting was handled by police in Florida as several rallies have been set in response to the teen's death.

      It's a case that's sparking outrage across the country and the Internet.

      Thursday, Reverend Al Sharpton will lead a rally in Florida and a rally will be held at Freedom Plaza in Northwest at 2 p.m. Saturday.

      Participants are asked to wear all black or a hoodie. The parents of a black teenager shot to death by a Hispanic neighborhood watch captain in Florida told demonstrators in New York they will keep fighting to get justice for their son.

      "My son did not deserve to die," Tracy Martin said Wednesday after thanking the hundreds of people who participated in a march in the teenager's memory.

      Demonstrators chanting "we want arrests" converged on Manhattan's Union Square for the Million Hoodie March.

      Martin's son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, was killed Feb. 26, in Sanford, Fla.

      He was returning to a gated community in the city after buying candy at a convenience store.

      He was unarmed and was wearing a hooded sweat shirt, called a hoodie.

      The neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, has not been charged in the shooting.

      Zimmerman has said the teen attacked him and he shot him in self-defense.

      The demonstrators in New York greeted the teen's parents with "God bless you!" Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, told the crowd: "My heart is in pain, but to see the support of all of you really makes a difference."

      The march splintered into various groups, with some demonstrators heading to Times Square to hold an impromptu rally and dozens of others making their way to downtown Manhattan.

      At times, it appeared the march had become indistinguishable from an Occupy event, with some protesters climbing atop the Wall Street bull sculpture.

      The Florida shooting has ignited a furor against the police department of the Orlando suburb of 53,500 people, prompting rallies and a protest in Gov. Rick Scott's office on Tuesday.

      Sanford city commissioners on Wednesday voted 3-2 to express "no confidence" in Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. over the handling of the fatal shooting.

      The commission can't fire Lee, however, because the police chief reports to the city manager.

      The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said it is sending its community relations service this week to Sanford to "address tension in the community."

      Earlier in the week, the federal agency opened a civil rights probe into the shooting, and in Florida, Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger said a grand jury will meet April 10 to consider evidence in the case.

      Tracy Martin said he and his son's mother found out about the march after arriving in New York City, where they have done interviews about the case.

      They got in touch with the organizers to say they would attend and speak to the crowd.

      The timing of the teen's parents being in the city when the march was happening was "incredible," said one of the organizers, Daniel Maree, who heard about the case earlier this week.

      "I was outraged and wanted to do something about it," Maree said.

      In recent days, information surrounding the teen's death has been coming out, including 911 calls and an account from his family's lawyer of a conversation he had with his girlfriend in the moments before his death.

      Tracy Martin, asked how he was holding up, said he was trying to stay strong.

      "I don't feel this is the time to break down, even though it's a very troubling time in my life," he said.

      "I've told myself, when I get justice for Trayvon, then I'll have my time to break down."