The three New York City police officers, who fatally shot 23 year-old Sean Bell on his wedding day with 50 bullets, were cleared of all charges today (April 25) in Queens Supreme Court.
According to the New York Daily News, detectives Michael Olivier and Gescard Isnora were acquitted of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter charges, felony assault and reckless endangerment and Marc Cooper was cleared of reckless endangerment charges today by Judge Arthur Cooperman. The decision sparked tears in the courtroom and rage on the streets.
"The defendants are not guilty of all charges," declared Justice Cooperman. "The burden was on the people to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Each defendant was assumed to be innocent."
Sean Bell's widow, Nicole Paultre-Bell in tears stood up and ran out of the courtroom as Cooperman read his verdict.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, assembled hundreds of extra cops in Jamaica, Queens, just in case there was trouble after the verdict.
"Some people were disappointed with the verdict and we understand that," Kelly said. "We don't anticipate violence but we are prepared for any contingencies."
As SOHH previously reported, Oliver, who fired 31 times and decorated undercover Detective Isnora, who fired 11 bullets, faced up to 25 years in prison for their charges and Cooper, who fired four shots, faced up to a year.
All three officers remain on modified duty and have surrendered their guns.
An outrage uncle of Bell sounded off on the verdict. "These guys are guilty," he said. "When is it going to stop?"
Bell was gunned down on the eve of his wedding day on November 25, 2006 outside a nightclub in Jamaica, Queens that was being investigated by undercover police officers. After leaving his bachelor party at Club Kalua, five plainclothes officers fired a hail of bullets at Bell and his friends, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, as they attempted to leave the club by car.
The case has sparked a firestorm of controversy, reviving accusations that the NYPD are too quick to fire on suspects, particularly black ones. Detective Oliver is white, while Detectives Isnora and Cooper are black.
About an hour after the verdict was delivered, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg shared in the grief of the Bell family.
"There are no winners in a trial like this," Bloomberg said. "An innocent man lost his life, a bride lost her groom, two daughters lost their father, and a mother and a father lost their son. No verdict could ever end the grief that those who knew and loved Sean Bell suffer."
The Mayor's statement went on to urge peaceful protest by those who oppose the verdict.
"We are the same people that when the trial was wrongfully moved to Albany of Amadou Diallo, that I stood on these steps when they were acquitted and said, 'we're not going to throw one brick or one stick and we didn't. We're the same people," declared Reverend Al Sharpton, who's been advising the Bell family.
The attorney for Bell's widow expressed his disappointment in the judge's decision.
"Now it is clear what the answer is to this family about what the value of the life of an innocent person is in our community," said attorney Michael Hardy. "We now have to deal with that and we will."
Widow Nicole Paultre-Bell left the courthouse without comment as she join the rest of Sean Bell's family at the slain victim's gravesite for prayer.
[Peep SOHH's Hip Hop 4 Prez Blog for more on the story]
not to defend michael vick.. but he got punished more severely for encouraging dogs to kill each other than these people got for killing an innocent & unarmed man. and not just shooting him, but unloading "50 bullets" in his body ON his wedding day. so what are we supposed to do when in 2008 in the united states of america a dog's life is valued over a black man's?