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How Sanford's police chief bungled his words, investigation into Trayvon Martin killing

SANFORD, Fla -- The many missteps in the Trayvon Martin investigation that may cost this small town’s police chief his job started with semantics.

The boy’s father says police depicted George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot an unarmed Miami Gardens teenager while on his nightly patrol, as “squeaky clean.” Then Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee told an Orlando TV station that the gunman didn’t have a criminal record — technically true: Charges in the shooter’s 2005 felony arrest, which the chief did not mention, had been dropped.

Now Chief Lee, who came on the job just 10 months ago for $102,000 a year to clean up a department tainted by racial scandals, finds himself under fire in what promises to be one of the most explosive law enforcement cases of the year. For weeks, black leaders have called for the firing of Lee, a Sanford native with a three-decade career in law enforcement whose father once ran the nearby black neighborhood’s convenience store.

In a 3-2 vote Wednesday night, the Sanford City Commission gave the chief a vote of no confidence, adding to the mounting national pressure to oust him.

What began as misunderstandings, technicalities and poor word choice mushroomed into what critics are calling a deeply flawed investigation, which is now being looked at by state and federal agencies.

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