Video: Fired chief’s pressure to arrest Zimmerman without cause

The former police chief of Sanford, Florida alleged Wednesday that the George Zimmerman investigation was hijacked “in a number of ways” by outside forces.

Bill Lee told CNN’s George Howell in an exclusive interview aired Wednesday that he felt pressure from city officials to arrest Zimmerman to placate the public rather than as a matter of justice, as the cable news network reported.

He is adamant that the Sanford police conducted a “sound” investigation after Zimmerman fatally shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and there was no probable cause to arrest Zimmerman.

“It was (relayed) to me that they just wanted an arrest. They didn’t care if it got dismissed later,” he told CNN. “You don’t do that.”

“The police department needed to do a job, and there was some influence — outside influence and inside influence — that forced a change in the course of the normal criminal justice process,” Lee said.

“That investigation was taken away from us. We weren’t able to complete it.”

One example involved the 911 tapes, which the Sanford police did not plan to release during the investigation. Instead, the mayor told Lee on March 16 the tapes had been released to Martin’s family and the public, CNN noted.

The Martin family listened to the tapes together, prompting Lee to say: “It should be done individually so there’s no influence on the other people in the room,” he said. “Then, there’s no questions that can be brought up about how (an identification) was obtained or whether it was influenced.”

A point that was reiterated by several legal experts this week during trial coverage.

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Tom Tillison

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