Zimmerman freed, goes into hiding

Posted: April 24, 2012

SANFORD, Fla. - George Zimmerman, who slipped out of jail on $150,000 bail in the early-morning darkness, went back into hiding Monday and likely fled to another state to avoid threats as he awaits his second-degree murder trial in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Later Monday, the Sanford City Commission rejected, 3-2, the resignation of Police Chief Bill Lee, who was roundly criticized for not initially charging Zimmerman and had stepped down temporarily in March to let emotions cool.

Even though authorities can pinpoint Zimmerman's location with a GPS ankle bracelet that he must wear round the clock, the public may not see him again for some time. Zimmerman has waived his appearance at his arraignment next month, so he can stay underground if he wants.

Zimmerman already has experience laying low: For more than a month before his arrest, he eluded the media and his whereabouts were not known. His attorney has suggested he has several possible staying places for Zimmerman this time, and a judge indicated he was willing to let Zimmerman leave the state.

Lee is on paid leave. Not long ago, the commissioners gave him a "no confidence vote," which City Manager Norton Bonaparte said still stands. The shooting also led to the local prosecutor recusing himself from the case; the governor appointed Angela Corey, who eventually charged Zimmerman.

The majority of commissioners said they wanted to wait for an outside investigation to conclude into police handling of the case before accepting the resignation agreement drawn up by Bonaparte and Lee. Commissioners said Lee did not want to step down, but thought it was for the best.

The city is also looking to find a permanent interim chief, perhaps as early as next week, Bonaparte said.

Zimmerman went underground after his Feb. 26 confrontation with Martin at the gated community in Sanford, Fla., where Zimmerman lived.

Martin was unarmed and was walking back to the home of his father's fiancee when Zimmerman saw him, called police, and began following him. A fight broke out - investigators say it is unknown who started it.

Zimmerman says that Martin attacked him. He says he shot Martin in self-defense, citing Florida's "stand your ground" law, which gives broad legal protection to anyone saying he used deadly force because he feared death or great bodily harm.

Zimmerman was not charged for more than six weeks, sparking nationwide protests. Martin was black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is from Peru.

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