The Sanford police chief, whose department failed to arrest a man who shot and killed unarmed Trayvon Martin, sparking a national outcry, is temporarily stepping down.

During a press conference Thursday, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced that he had become a distraction and would temporarily resign. Lee has been criticized after police did not arrest George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.

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.

The Trayvon Martin Killing Stirs Tension and Prompts Rallies Across the Country

Zimmerman claims the shooting was self-defense. He told police Martin, who was carrying Skittles and a can of iced tea, attacked him after he had given up on chasing the teenager and was returning to his sport utility vehicle.

The announcement comes hours after students at Martin’s school in Miami walked out in protest of his shooting. On Wednesday, hundreds took to the streets of New York to call for justice.  

Opinion: Does Race Play a Role in the Trayvon Martin Case Even if Zimmerman is Not White?

“Trayvon Martin was you, Trayvon Martin did matter,” said his father, Tracy Martin, over a megaphone, to the hundreds of people who participated in the “Million Hoodie March” in the teenager's memory in Union Square in Manhattan.

Martin’s case has stirred civil rights activists across the country into action, and raised new questions in the debate over the Second Amendment

Florida police said this week that they may have missed a racial slur that Zimmerman uttered during the 911 call minutes before the shooting. 

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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