Police acquitted over NY shooting

Police acquitted over NY shooting

Sean Bell with his fiancee Nicole

Bell was due to marry his girlfriend Nicole, with whom he had a child

A judge in New York has acquitted three police officers who shot dead an unarmed man hours before his wedding.

Sean Bell, 23, who was black, was shot as he left a strip club in the suburb of Queens in November 2006.

Two detectives, Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora, faced charges of manslaughter. A third, Marc Cooper, had been accused of reckless endangerment.

The case had generated accusations of police racism and brutality, and there were angry protests outside the court.

Bell’s fiancee, Nicole Paultre Bell, walked out of the packed courtroom as soon as Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman cleared the three officers of all charges.

"The people have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that each defendant was not justified" in firing, the judge said.

The verdict was welcomed by a spokesman for the police union.

The defendants had opted to have a judge decide the case rather than a jury, arguing that pre-trial publicity could have prejudiced jurors.

Undercover

Bell and two friends were apparently trying to drive away from the Kalua club when the incident occurred early on the morning of 25 November 2006.

(Left to right) Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper

The police officers who fired were among five undercover officers who had been investigating prostitution allegations at the club.

Bell was killed and his friends were seriously injured.

Mr Isnora said he decided to follow the trio to their car because he believed they were going to carry out a drive-by shooting. No gun was ever found in their car.

Protesters were angered by revelations that between them, the officers had fired 50 shots at the car – a use of force they argued was excessive.

But the police officers insisted they suspected one of Bell’s companions was armed.

Police welcome the judge’s verdict

After the verdict a spokesman for a police union, Patrick J Lynch, told reporters it proved that police officers could expect "fairness" when in court.

He said that Bell’s death had been a "tragedy", but said that for police officers out on the streets there "is never a script – we have to deal with circumstances as they come" and sometimes made mistakes.

Gasps

But there was outrage at the verdict among Bell’s family and supporters.

Angry scenes outside court following the verdict

Inside the courtroom, Bell’s mother sobbed and gasps were heard as the verdict was given.

Outside there was outrage among the dozens of protesters, many of whom had queued since the early hours to try to get into the court.

Shouts of "No!" erupted as word of the verdict spread. Some people wept on each other’s shoulders, while others shouted "No justice in America!"

The veteran black civil rights campaigner Rev Al Sharpton, who has led many of the protests around the case and was in court on Friday, has argued it is not about race but about police accountability.

Two of the acquitted officers were black.


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SEE ALSO
Were New York cops trigger happy?
24 Apr 08 |  Americas
NY police kill man on wedding day
26 Nov 06 |  Americas
NY rally deplores police shooting
27 Nov 06 |  Americas
NY police trial for groom’s death
25 Feb 08 |  Americas

FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
New York Times Detectives and Sharpton Speak Out – 22 mins ago
HeraldNet 3 NY police detectives acquitted in unarmed man’s shooting – 53 mins ago
USA Today Community angry over acquitted NYPD officers – 1 hr ago
Chicago TribuneN.Y. cops acquitted in shooting death of groom – 1 hr ago
FOXNews.com NYPD Officers Acquitted of All Counts in 50-Shot Barrage That Killed Groom-to-Be – 1 hr ago
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