Sean Bell shooting incident
The Sean Bell shooting incident took place in the New York City borough of Queens, New York, United States on November 25, 2006, when three men were shot at a total of fifty times by a team of both plainclothes and undercover NYPD officers, killing one of the men, Sean Bell, on the morning before his wedding, and severely wounding two of his friends, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman. The incident sparked fierce criticism of the police from some members of the public and drew comparisons to the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo. Three of the five detectives involved in the shooting went to trial on charges ranging from manslaughter to reckless endangerment, and were found not guilty.
Sean Elijah Bell (May 18, 1983 - November 25, 2006) was the nephew of the current University of Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith. As a teenager, he studied acting in Flushing, Queens. He was a baseball pitcher for John Adams High School in Ozone Park. His senior year season ended with an 11-0 record, a 2.30 E.R.A. and 97 strikeouts in 62.2 innings. Bell held odd jobs after the birth of his daughter, Jada Bell on December 16, 2002. His wife to be, Nicole Paultre Bell, told Larry King that Bell was studying to be an electrician by trade and unemployed when the shooting occurred.
Shooting incident 
The night of the shooting, Bell was holding his bachelor party at Club Kalua, a strip club, in the Jamaica section of Queens, a venue that was being investigated by seven undercover police detectives, as a result of accusations that the owners of the club had been fostering prostitution.
The New York Post reported that, according to an unnamed undercover officer, Bell had an argument with a man outside of the club. Allegedly someone was heard saying "Yo, get my gun" at the scene. Fearing a shooting might occur, plain-clothed officer Gescard Isnora followed the men to their car while alerting his backup team, prompting the team to confront Bell and his companions before they could leave the scene. As Sean Bell and his friends proceeded to get into Bell's car to head home, an unidentified man approached the car with his gun drawn. Detective Isnora (by his account) identified himself as a police officer, and ordered the driver to stop. Instead, Bell allegedly accelerated the car and brushed Isnora's lower leg, then as another unmarked police minivan rushed the scene, it collided with Sean Bell's car . By all accounts, Detective Isnora thought he saw Guzman reach for a gun while in the car, yelled "gun" to other police at the scene, and opened fire on the car. The other officers and detectives joined him in shooting at the car, firing 50 bullets in a few seconds.
A toxicology report showed that Bell was legally intoxicated at the time of the shooting. An attorney for the Bell family said in response to the report, "No matter what his blood-alcohol level was, he's a victim." 
Other accounts of the incident conflict with that of the undercover officers. According to Guzman, the detectives never identified themselves while they approached the vehicle with drawn weapons. Another source also told New York Daily News that the officers failed to warn Bell before opening fire and started firing immediately upon leaving their vehicles.
The police officer who initiated the gunfire later said that he saw a fourth man in the car, who fled the scene amid the chaos, possibly in possession of the alleged weapon. Jean Nelson, a friend of Bell, was speculated to have been the fourth man. Although present at the time of the shooting, Nelson denies being in the car or possessing a gun. According to The New York Times, a preliminary police report of the shooting contains
"... no meaningful discussion of a fourth man, a mysterious figure who some in the Police Department have suggested may have been present along with the three men who were shot. None of the witnesses whose accounts are in the report speaks of someone who may have fled — perhaps possessing a gun — and there are no indications that the police at the time were seeking anyone who may have left the scene."
Critics suggest that the scenario was concocted by the police officer in order to justify the shooting. Columnist Juan Gonzalez reported in the New York Daily News that, according to a law enforcement source, in the hours immediately following the incident, there was no mention of a fourth man in the police calls and no search was launched for the potentially armed man. This source thus contradicted initial reports that the police searched the neighborhood for the missing man.
According to Michael Palladino, the head of the detectives union, a man who was working as a janitor in a nearby building while the incident occurred later told the detectives that he had seen a black man fleeing the scene, and that the man had fired a gun, at least once, at the police. The witness further stated that he had then heard the officers shouting "police, police." However, according to ballistic evidence, there was no indication of any other weapon, aside from those of the officers, fired at the scene.
In an interview on Larry King Live, accompanying Bell's former fiancée Nicole Paultre, Al Sharpton stated that according to his conversations with eyewitnesses, none of the three men who were shot mentioned a gun while leaving the club. Sharpton also felt that it would be impossible for the persons in the car to have heard the police from within the car, and that they were likely to fear that they were being car-jacked. Several of the witnesses received payment from Sharpton, and several groups, including the NYPD Detectives union have questioned the ethics of these payments, calling into question the witnesses' credibility, to which Sharpton has replied, "How can [the Detectives Endowment Association] support the detectives and I can't support the victims?"
Five of the seven officers investigating the club were involved in the shooting. Detective Paul Headley fired one round, Officer Michael Carey fired three, Officer Marc Cooper fired four, Officer Gescard Isnora fired eleven, and veteran officer Michael Oliver emptied two full magazines, firing 31 shots from a 9mm handgun and pausing to reload at least once.
An autopsy showed Bell was struck four times in the neck and torso. Guzman (31 y.o.) was shot 19 times and Benefield (23 y.o.), who was in the back seat, was hit three times. Both men were taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital; at the time of admission Guzman was listed in critical condition and Benefield was in stable condition. Guzman and Benefield would ultimately survive the shooting. Benefield was released from the hospital on 5 December 2006, while Guzman was released on 25 January 2007. Surveillance cameras at the Port Authority's Jamaica AirTrain station a half block away from the shooting site recorded one of the bullets fired by the officers shattering through the station's glass window, missing a civilian and two Port Authority patrolmen who were standing on the station's elevated platform.
Response to the shooting 
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has said "it sounds to me like excessive force was used," and has called the shooting "inexplicable" and "unacceptable". Ex-New York governor George E. Pataki has also stated that the shooting was excessive. Kelly has put the five officers involved on paid administrative leave and stripped them of their weapons, a move the New York Times called "forceful". He told the Times that the officers were stripped of their guns because "there were, and are, too many unanswered questions." Both Bloomberg and Kelly have also noted that the shooting was possibly in violation of department guidelines prohibiting shooting at a moving vehicle, even if the vehicle is being used as a weapon. The Public Advocate extended condolences to Bell's former fiancée and family following the killing.
On December 7, 2006, Nicole Paultre legally changed her name to Nicole Paultre Bell to "honor the memory" of Sean Bell. New York State laws require a couple to obtain a marriage license prior to a wedding, and "although the marriage license is issued immediately, the marriage ceremony may not take place within 24 hours from the exact time that the license was issued." According to Nicole Paultre's attorney, a posthumous wedding was impossible since no marriage license had yet been signed.
On March 5, 2007, it was announced that a Rikers Island inmate offered to pay an undercover police officer posing as a hitman to behead New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly and bomb police headquarters in retaliation for the incident.
On March 25, 2007, New York Daily News reported that an unnamed Queens drug dealer, after being arrested, alleged that Sean Bell had shot him the previous year on July 13, 2006 over a drug turf dispute. Police sources called the drug dealer's account credible, but could not rule out the possibility of the drug dealer falsely identifying Sean Bell to garner favor with authorities. The attorney representing the Bell family, Nicole Paultre, and the two other occupants of the vehicle that were wounded during the shooting, denounced this development, saying, "We expected them to throw dirt at us and they are throwing dirt at us." NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau detectives say the dealer's tale has no direct bearing on the police shooting of Bell, though some legal experts said that it could help the defense by portraying Sean Bell as possibly armed and dangerous. The drug dealer later admitted to falsely accusing Mr.Bell, in hopes of saving himself.
Investigation and criminal indictment 
At that time, some activists called for a special prosecutor in the case, but New York's then-Governor Eliot Spitzer said he did not see the need for it although then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo promised to keep a watch on the criminal proceedings. The Queens district attorney's office interviewed over 100 witnesses and presented more than 500 exhibits to a grand jury. An issue considered by the grand jury was the New York State Penal Code's description of circumstances under which a police officer can use deadly force: "The use of deadly physical force is necessary to defend the police officer or peace officer or another person from what the officer reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force."
On March 16, 2007, three of the five police officers involved in the shooting were indicted by a grand jury. Officer Gescard Isnora, who fired the first shot, and Officer Michael Oliver, who fired 31 of the 50 shots, were charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment and assault, while Detective Marc Cooper was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment. All three detectives pleaded not guilty at the arraignment hearing on March 19, 2007. Detectives Isnora and Oliver were released on bail and Detective Cooper on his own recognizance.
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Second Department, denied a motion by the detectives' attorneys to move the trial to a venue outside of Queens. Following the adverse ruling, the detectives waived a jury trial and instead submitted to a bench trial.
The District Attorney Richard Brown has faced some criticism from activists who believe he did not question the police officers involved quickly enough.
Trial and acquittal on all charges 
On April 25, 2008, all three of the police officers indicted were acquitted on all counts. The defendants opted to have Justice Arthur J. Cooperman make a ruling rather than a jury. The ruling was handed down in a state supreme court in Queens.
A key defense forensic witness was Alexander Jason, a crime scene analyst and ballistics expert who disproved several of the prosecution's main points relating to the physical evidence. Among them was the timing of the incident. After doing tests with an NYPD pistol, Jason demonstrated that the 31 shots fired by one detective (Oliver) could have been done in about 12 seconds – not several minutes. Using high speed video during ballistic testing, Jason demonstrated that bullets fired through a car window would project glass both inside and outside the car and that this could be interpreted as shots coming from inside. Another of Jason's key points (mentioned in Judge Cooperman's written verdict) was that the person in the back seat of Bell's car (Benefield) was not shot while he was running away as he claimed, but while inside the car. Jason used computer generated 3D models to display some of his findings.
In his ruling, Justice Cooperman stated that testimony by Guzman and Benefield did not make sense. He also cited the fact that they had a pending 50 million dollar lawsuit against the city. After the ruling was made, the family, led by Sharpton and several others went to Bell's graveside in Port Washington, Long Island for a memorial service.
Although the officers were acquitted, the three of them and their commanding officer were fired or forced to resign on March 24, 2012.
"Slowdown" protest 
On May 7, 2008, Sharpton led a series of protests in New York City. Hundreds took to the streets in Manhattan and Brooklyn as part of the citywide "slowdown" effort led by Sharpton and his National Action Network. The crowd made its way to the streets stopping the flow of traffic in many vital areas of the city. This led to police action, and the arrest of over 200 people, including Sharpton himself. Sharpton was arrested without incident at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Bell's parents, his former fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, and the two shooting victims who survived, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman were also arrested.
Civil case 
On May 18, 2010, U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York lifted a stay on the civil lawsuit brought by Nicole Paultre Bell against the City of New York. On July 27, 2010 a settlement was reached. New York City agreed to pay Sean Bell's family $3.25 million. Joseph Guzman, 34, who uses a cane and a leg brace and has four bullets lodged in his body and Trent Benefield, 26, two passengers in Bell's car who attended his bachelor party and were wounded in the shooting, will receive $3 million and $900,000 respectively in the settlement, for a total of $7.15 million. Paultre Bell said " No amount of money will bring Sean back, but the most important thing is that our fight, my fight, doesn't end here," "No amount of money can provide closure but at least it will secure a economic future for my daughters" . New York City Corporation Counsel stated "The city regrets the loss of life in this tragic case and we share our deepest condolences with the Bell family." The head of the New York City Detectives Endowment Association said he thought the settlement was a joke. "The detectives were exonerated . . . and now the taxpayer is on the hook for $7 million and the attorneys are in line to get $2 million without suffering a scratch." Guzman said the settlement did not change the underlying reality that black and Hispanic men's lives are not worth much in New York and that the incident is bound to be repeated.
The Nicole Paultre Bell "When It's Real, It's Forever" non-profit organization was started in memory of Sean Bell. Rappers David Banner, Nicki Minaj, Prodigy, Immortal Technique and the Jamaica, Queens-based rap group G-Unit, The Game and Chamillionaire have each referenced the Sean Bell case in one of their songs. G-Unit dedicated the opening track to their T.O.S: Terminate on Sight album to Sean Bell and also paid tribute to him in the thank you section of the liner notes. Nicki Minaj dedicated part of her verse New York Minute to Sean Bell "There's gotta be a heaven cause Sean Bell will never get to make it to his wedding." Chamillionaire referenced the case on the Mixtape Messiah 2 disc at the end of the song "Ridin' Overseas" (featuring Akon) where he says, "Rest in peace to Sean Bell, Chamillitary man". The Game dedicated the controversial song "911 is a joke" to Sean Bell. Also, The Game dedicated the song, "My Life" (feat. Lil Wayne), to Sean Bell as well. Bun B references Sean Bell in his song "Get Cha Issue." The Game referenced the incident specifically on the song Cop Killa (911 is a Motha Fuckin Joke):
I hate the muthafuckin' pigs cause them pigs hate me
and I should kill 51 cops
for the 51 shots
that they gave that fuckin' kid in New York
During an interview with Music Choice, The Game began to cry when he spoke about the Sean Bell case and how so many rappers did not care enough to contribute to the song. He also references Bell by showing his headstone in the music video for "My Life."
"Pain in my eyes as I'm passing the place
Where they found Sean Bell and they shot him (Queens)
Forty one times, he committed no crime
But I guess life ain't Times Square"
Rapper Soul Khan briefly mentions Sean Bell in his song "So I Says," saying, "(So what you want Soul?) No more Sean Bells."
Rapper C.R.Y.M.E. dedicates his song "Problems with Authority" to Sean Bell and Rodney King.
Swizz Beatz, Cassidy, Maino, Styles P, Talib Kweli, Red Cafe & Drag-On recorded a song entitled "Stand Up (The Sean Bell Tribute Song)" that was produced by The Heatmakerz in which they share their thoughts on the Sean Bell shooting.
Kyp Malone's band Rain Machine references Sean Bell in their song "Smiling Black Faces" in lyrics "And on his wedding day/They took Sean Bell away/Cops let their bullets spray".
Rapper Joe Budden mentions Sean Bell in his song "Long Way 2 Go": "I think about Virginia Tech, think about Katrina/Niggas that caught Sean Bell slippin' with the nine-a/A day before the wedding, safety off the weapon/Though all these things play in my head I keep steppin'."
Rapper Jay-Z mentions Sean Bell in his song "A Billi" in the lyrics "Shawn Carter, Sean Bell, what's the difference? Do tell 50 shots or 50 mill', ain't no difference go to hell."
Rapper B.A.M. mentions Sean Bell in his song "My City Pt. 1" in the lyrics "Rest in peace Sean Bell, may them pigs burn in Hell, return 50 shells for my soldiers in them Rikers cells"
Rapper Nicki Minaj mentions Sean Bell in the song "NY Minute (Remix)" in the lyrics " And there got to be a Heaven , Cause Sean Bell will never get to make it to his wedding, And a star will arise and she'll originate from the streets of southside." She mentions him again in the song "N.I.G.G.A.S" in the lyrics "This is for the borough of Sean Bell (Rest In Peace) , All of my niggas with strong will"
Sean Bell Way 
See also 
- Contagious shooting
- Jean-Charles de Menezes
- Amadou Diallo
- Johnny Gammage
- Ousmane Zongo
- Nightlife legislation of the United States
- List of killings by law enforcement officers in the United States
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- C. Buckley, W.K. Rashbaum. ". A total of 50 shots were fired at Sean Bell Joe Guzman and Trent Benefield. Detective Isnora, who initially fired, shot 11 times. Detective Oliver, the driver of the unmarked minivan, fired 31 times. emptying one magazine and reloading another. Detective Cooper fired 4 times. PO Carrie fired 3 times and Paul Headly fired once. A Day After a Fatal Shooting, Questions, Mourning and Protest." The New York Times, November 27, 2006
- A. Baker, 50-Shot Barrage Leads to Charges for 3 Detectives, The New York Times, 17 March 2007.
- Not Guilty: Detectives Charged In Sean Bell Shooting Acquitted On All Counts, NY1 News, April 25, 2008
- "Bloomberg meets with family of shooting victim at their church". New York: Associated Press. 27 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-27.[dead link]
- Carrie Melago, "Drama Teacher Recalls Bell had His Act Together," New York Daily News," December 16, 2006, p. 6
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- $7.2M settlement in Sean Bell wrongful-death case Newsday July 28, 2010
- riding over seas chammilionaire ft akon on YouTube
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Nl4ynHtdAs - The Game's tearful interview
- "Killer Mike – Anywhere But Here Lyrics". Rap Genius. Retrieved 2013-01-23.
- The Making Of Stand Up: Sean Bell Tribute Pt. 1 Watch part 1 of this 3 part series of the making of "Stand Up (Sean Bell Tribute)" with insight from Cassidy, Maino and Drag-On.
- The Making Of Stand Up: Sean Bell Tribute Pt. 2 In part 2 of the Making of "Stand Up (The Sean Bell Tribute)" we hear from Syles P and Sean Bell's Mother Valarie Bell!
- The Making Of Stand Up: Sean Bell Tribute Pt. 3 For the final part of this "making of" webisode, Swizz Beatz, Rsonist and the Executive Producer of "Stand Up (The Sean Bell Tribute)" speak about this song.
- Rain Machine-Rain Machine Drowned in Sound review
- Zraick, Karen (December 22, 2009). "Divided Council Renames Street After Sean Bell". The New York Times.
- Sulzberger, A. G. (May 18, 2010). "Sean Bell's Family Gets Good News on His Birthday". The New York Times.
- Barker, Cyril Josh (2010-05-19). "Queens Street Renamed in Honor of Sean Bell". Amsterdam News.