NYPD Acquitted in Groom’s Death

25Apr08

Sean Bell, a 23-year-old black man, was killed in a hail of gunfire outside a seedy strip club in Queens on Nov. 25, 2006 — also his wedding day — as he was leaving his bachelor party with two close friends. Three detectives were acquitted of all charges Friday in the 50-shot killing of the unarmed groom to be. A case that put the NYPD at the center of yet another dispute involving allegations of excessive firepower.

Justice Arthur Cooperman delivered the verdict in a Queens courtroom packed with spectators, including victim Sean Bell’s fiancee and parents, and at least 200 people gathered outside the building. The verdict provoked an outpouring of emotions: Bell’s fiancee immediately walked out of the room. His mother cried. Outside the scores of police officers and crowds of supporters and others in rally began weeping, some swearing and screaming “Murderers! Murderers!” or “KKK!”

Officers Michael Oliver, 36, and Gescard Isnora, 29, stood trial for manslaughter while Officer Marc Cooper, 40, was charged only with reckless endangerment. Two other shooters weren’t charged. (why?) Oliver squeezed off 31 shots; Isnora fired 11 rounds; and Cooper shot four times. The officers, complaining that pretrial publicity had unfairly painted them as cold-blooded killers, opted to have the judge decide the case rather than a jury.

The judge indicated that the police officers’ version of events was more credible than the victims’ version. “The people have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that each defendant was not justified” in firing, he said. A conviction on manslaughter could have brought up to 25 years in prison; the penalty for reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, is a year behind bars.

The defense painted the victims as drunken thugs who the officers believed were armed and dangerous. Prosecutors sought to convince the judge that the victims had been minding their own business, and that the officers were inept, trigger-happy aggressors.

None of the officers took the witness stand in his own defense. Instead, Cooperman heard transcripts of the officers testifying before a grand jury, saying they believed they had good reason to use deadly force. The judge also heard testimony from Bell’s two injured companions, who insisted the maelstrom erupted without warning.

Both sides were consistent on one point: The utter chaos surrounding the last moments of Bell’s life.

“It happened so quick,” Isnora said in his grand jury testimony. “It was like the last thing I ever wanted to do.”

Bell’s companions — Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman — also offered dramatic testimony about the episode. Benefield and Guzman were both wounded; Guzman still has four bullets lodged in his body.

Referring to Isnora, Guzman said, “This dude is shooting like he’s crazy, like he’s out of his mind.”

As the club closed around 4 a.m., Sanchez and Isnora claimed they overheard Bell and his friends first flirt with women, then taunt a stranger who responded by putting his right hand in his pocket as if he had a gun. Guzman, they testified, said, “Yo, go get my gun” — something Bell’s friends denied.

Isnora said he decided to arm himself, call for backup — “It’s getting hot,” he told his supervisor — and tail Bell, Guzman and Benefield as they went around the corner and got into Bell’s car. He claimed that after warning the men to halt, Bell pulled away, bumped him and rammed an unmarked police van that converged on the scene with Oliver at the wheel.

The detective also alleged that Guzman made a sudden move as if he were reaching for a gun.

“I yelled ‘Gun!’ and fired,” he said. “In my mind, I knew (Guzman) had a gun.”

Benefield and Guzman testified that there were no orders. Instead, Guzman said, Isnora “appeared out of nowhere” with a gun drawn and shot him in the shoulder — the first of 16 shots to enter his body.

“That’s all there was — gunfire,” he said. “There wasn’t nothing else.”

With tires screeching, glass breaking and bullets flying, the officers claimed that they believed they were the ones under fire. Oliver responded by emptying his semiautomatic pistol, reloading, and emptying it again, as the supervisor sought cover.

The truth emerged when the smoke cleared: There was no weapon inside Bell’s blood-splattered car.

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3 Responses to “NYPD Acquitted in Groom’s Death”

  1. 1 Lyn

    I knew today was going to be a good day when I woke up. I’m glad those lawmen did their job. Another dangerous black criminal got justice. And today those officers were acquitted – that is justice too.

    I know this weekend there might be a rally. And there will be some angry bloggin’. But black people you are going to suck it up. You don’t have the guts to start a “revolution” like that drama queen in the photo.

    Enjoy your stay in AmeriKKKa black folks.

  2. We been covering Sean Bell’s case over at Highbrid Nation from the start and when I read today that the police officers were acquitted I was in serious disbelief. An unarmed man was shot 50 times and the people who did it are not responsible at all!? That’s crazy.

  3. The NYPD is looking for a few good men. Requirements, must be willing to shoot to kill innocent minorities in urban crime ridden areas. Pay per kill incentive bonus. Good bonus, and healthcare package. Immunity from prosecution. Bench trial secured before first bullet is lodged in assailants chest cavity. http://www.cafepress.com/dirtycops
    Asante Kahari


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