Pull up a seat and have a steaming cup with me as we discuss issues central to the west-indian community, the african-american community and the LGBT community.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wonders Never Cease!

NEW YORK - Three detectives were acquitted of all charges Friday in the 50-shot killing of an unarmed groom-to-be on his wedding day, a case that put the New York Police Department at the center of 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, as at least 200 people gathered outside the building.

As word of the verdict spread, many outside the courthouse began crying and yelled "No!" Some briefly jostled with police officers.
Bell, a 23-year-old black man, was killed in a hail of gunfire outside a strip club in Queens on Nov. 25, 2006 — his wedding day — as he was leaving his bachelor party with two friends.

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.

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. Oliver squeezed off 31 shots; Isnora fired 11 rounds; and Cooper shot four times.

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.

Painful memories of other NYPD cases
The case brought back painful memories of other NYPD shootings, such as the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo — an African immigrant who was gunned down in a hail of 41 bullets by police officers who mistook his wallet for a gun. The acquittal of the officers in that case created a storm of protest, with hundreds arrested after taking to the streets in demonstration.

The mood surrounding this case has been muted by comparison, although Bell's fiancee, parents and their supporters, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, have held rallies demanding that the officers — two of whom are black — be held accountable.

The defendants, who were investigating reports of prostitution at the Kalua Cabaret, say they became alarmed when they heard Bell and his friends trade insults around the 4 a.m. closing time with another patron who appeared to be armed. In grand jury testimony, Isnora claimed that he overheard one of Bell's companions, Joseph Guzman, say, "Yo, go get my gun."

Isnora responded by trailing Bell, Guzman and Trent Benefield to Bell's car. He insisted that he ordered the men to halt and that he and other officers began shooting only after Bell bumped him with his car and slammed into an unmarked police van while trying to flee.

Guzman and Benefield both played down the dispute outside the club. They also testified that they were unaware police were watching them and that the gunfire erupted without warning.

1 comment:

Curious said...

God knows I'm not a big supporter of the police in some areas, and there is a part of me that says they should be heading to the electric chair or needle or whatever they have in NY right now. But since like most of the public I don't know both sides of the case, I figure there should be at least some discussion on how the police are trained and told how to handle situations like this.

Although I still don't get how that guy who fired over 30 shots by stopping and reloading his clip still thought his life was in danger.