Groom Gunned Down By NYPD, Sparks Protests & Probe
The five cops gunned down Sean Bell, 23, on his wedding day, shortly after the young man left the Kalua Cabaret Strip Club for his bachelor party. Cops fired 50 shots at Bell and his two friends, Joseph Guzman, 31 and Trent Benefield, 23. At press time, Guzman was listed in critical condition while Benefield was in stable condition.
Bell's fiancee, Nicole Paultre, and their 3-year-old daughter were also among the protesters. The protest took place in various parts, including the 103rd Precinct and the Mary Immaculate Hospital, where Guzman and Benefield are hospitalized..
"It is like the Wild, Wild West," said Bishop Lester Williams, who was scheduled to wed Bell and Paultre, at the rally. "50 shots and no one is shooting back at you? That's an execution. It's like putting them in front of a firing line."
The New York Police Department has placed the five officers on paid administrative leave and demanded that they surrender their weapons. The names of the officers weren't released and they have yet to be interviewed for the investigation. Two of the officers are white, two are black and one is Hispanic.
Meanwhile, new details from the night of the shooting have surfaced. Friends of Bell, Benefield and Guzman told authorities that the three men thought the undercover cops were out the rob them and attempted to escape. According to police, Bell reportedly hit one of the officers with his car and then drove into the cops' unmarked minivan twice before they began shooting.
The plain clothes officers fired the first shot before unloading ten more, according to a law enforcement source. A white undercover officer who was inside the unmarked van stepped out of the vehicle and fired his weapon 31 times, running out of ammunition only to reload and fire again. The second cop in the van took three shots. A lieutenant in charge of the operation was in an unmarked Toyota Camry and ducked behind the dashboard when shots were first fired, thinking he was under attack, a source said. Two other officers in the Camry got out and began firing as well, police said. A 17-year veteran fired four shots while the other, a 9-year vet, let off one round.
According to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, officers had overheard one of the three men say he would reach for a weapon. No guns were found in Bell's car.
Trini Wright, 28, one of the dancers at the Kalua Cabaret, said the cops fired without identifying themselves. She was set to join Bell and his pals at a diner and was putting her makeup bag in the truck of Bell's car when the cops' minivan popped up.
"The minivan came around the corner and smashed into their car. And they [the cops] jumped out shooting," Wright told the New York Daily News. "No 'stop.' No 'freeze.' No nothing."
"We cannot allow this to continue to happen," Rev. Al Sharpton told the crowd of protesters in front of Mary Immaculate Hospital. "We've got to understand that all of us were in that car."