Shot to death by NYPD
Two police detectives involved in the shooting death of Sean Bell last November  have been indicted on charges of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter, and, if convicted, face maximum sentences of 25 years in prison. An unarmed Sean was shot dead by police in New York City hours before he was to have been married, prompting the fury over the officers’ actions. See Pics >
But the Rev. Al Sharpton, who held a news conference with Bell’s family and the other shooting victims in Harlem, said the charges weren’t enough. “There clearly was evidence to warrant murder and attempted murder,” he said.
Two of the Sean’s friends were also hurt in the shooting, which occurred outside a strip club where they had been celebrating before the wedding. Police fired 50 bullets at a car carrying the men after it reportedly struck an unmarked police vehicle. Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper were all named in the eight-count indictment handed up by a Queens grand jury in the shooting death of Sean.
At their arraignment the officers pleaded not guilty. Cooper was released on his own recognizance. A bond of $250,000 each was set for Oliver and Isnora. Oliver, who fired 31 shots in the incident, and Isnora, who fired 11 shots, were indicted on the felony manslaughter charges. Additionally, Oliver was charged with two counts of first-degree assault, Isnora was charged with one count of first-degree assault, and all three detectives were charged with second-degree reckless endangerment, a minor charge.
Cooper was also charged with misdemeanour reckless endangerment for firing a shot into the nearby Air Train station in Jamaica. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted. In addition, Oliver was charged with reckless endangerment for firing a shot that went through the window of an occupied home.
The officers involved in the shooting said they believed Joseph Guzman, who was wounded by police in the incident, was reaching for a gun when the officers shot Bell shortly after the friends had left a bachelor party at the Kalua Cabaret. No gun was ever found.
The three officers surrendered at the NYPD Bureau of Internal Affairs and then were transported to the court complex in Kew Gardens. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said all three officers have been suspended without pay. All five officers involved in the shooting had previously been placed on administrative leave, Kelly said.
The other two officers, Det. Paul Headley and Officer Mike Carey, were not indicted for their roles in the shooting. Lt. Gary Napoli, who also was not indicted, has been placed on modified assignment, as the NYPD continues with an internal investigation of the shooting, Kelly said.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Al Sharpton, surrounded by Bell’s family members, including his fiancée Nicole Paultre Bell, held a news conference in Harlem saying the indictment was not a cause for celebration. Sharpton said all five officers who fired their weapons that night should have been indicted.
All five officers shot,” Sharpton said. “All officers should have been charged.” He also said charges should have included murder, saying: “There clearly was evidence to warrant murder and attempted murder.” Sharpton said it was “insulting” that the Detectives Endowment Association has pushed for a change of venue, saying: “The question of a venue change is not only in our opinion wrong; it is insulting to the intelligence of the public and the courts. . . . We will not participate in a trial outside Queens County.”
Monday morning, Brown also said he would fight any move to have the case moved to another venue. Brown said neither he nor his office would comment further on the case, partly because he was legally restricted from commenting on certain aspects and partly because he did not want to prejudice the proceedings. “This case is going to be tried in a courtroom,” Brown said. “It is not going to be tried in my conference room.”
All three of the officers indicted have previously said they are innocent. Brown said the case presented to the grand jury was “about as thorough and complete as I’ve ever been involved in.” He said the grand jury heard testimony from more than 100 witnesses, were presented with more than 500 exhibits and that the presentations lasted more than three weeks, concluding with a deliberation that lasted about three days before the eight-count indictment was returned.
After the indictment was unsealed Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: “Although some people will be disappointed in the Grand Jury’s decision, we have to respect the result of our justice system”.
The mayor said the shooting of Sean Bell as led to an examination of police procedures in such cases. “Nothing anyone can do will bring back Sean Bell,” Bloomberg said. “But we can resolve to learn what lessons we can from this tragedy.”
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