Bell’s fiancee: ‘They killed Sean all over again’
A day after three New York police detectives were acquitted on all counts in the case of Sean Bell — an unarmed man killed in a hail of 50 police gunshots — his fiancee told supporters that the justice system let her down.
“On April 25, 2008, they killed Sean all over again,” Nicole Paultre Bell told supporters at a rally organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
“That’s what it felt like to us. That’s what it felt like to us,” she said Saturday. “Yesterday, they — the justice system — let me down. I gave them the benefit of the doubt,” she said. “I’m still praying for justice because it’s not over. It’s far from over.”
Bell spoke after Sharpton criticized the judge who acquitted the three officers, saying the case should have been heard by a jury.
“If people are on the public payroll, doing their public duty, they should be required to face a public jury,” Sharpton said at the National Action Network headquarters.
The officers chose to have a judge instead of a jury.
Witnesses said that about 4 a.m., closing time, as Bell and his friends left the club, an argument broke out. Believing that one of Bell’s friends, Joseph Guzman, was going to get a gun from Bell’s car, one of the undercover detectives followed the men and called for backup.
Bell, Guzman and Trent Benefield got into the car, with Bell at the wheel. The detectives drew their weapons, said Guzman and Benefield, who testified that they never heard the plainclothes detectives identify themselves as police.
Bell was in a panic to get away from the armed men, his friends testified.
But the detectives thought Bell was trying to run down one of them, believed that their lives were in danger and started shooting, according to their lawyers.
A total of 50 bullets were fired by five NYPD officers. Only three were charged with crimes.
No gun was found near Bell or his friends.
Paultre Bell, Guzman and Benefield have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court that has been stayed pending the outcome of the criminal trial.
Federal prosecutors will conduct a review to determine whether there were any civil rights violations, Brown said.