Sean Bell, 23, killed in hail of 50 bullets on night of his bachelor party
NEW YORK - Three NYPD detectives were acquitted Friday of all counts in the 50-shot killing of an unarmed man on his wedding day.
Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper were charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment and assault in the 2006 slaying of Sean Bell.
Justice Arthur Cooperman delivered the verdict in a Queens courtroom packed with spectators, including the victim's fiance and parents. The ruling brings an end to a nearly two-month trial.
Bell, 23, was killed and two friends were seriously wounded early on the morning of Nov. 25, 2006 — Bell's wedding day. The shooting sparked protests and raised questions about police firepower and undercover tactics.
During the trial, defense attorneys painted the victims as drunken thugs who the officers believed were armed and dangerous. Prosecutors sought to convince the judge that the victims had been minding their own business and that the officers were inept, trigger-happy aggressors.
"This F-Troop of a unit caused the death of an innocent man and caused the injury of two others," prosecutor Charles Testagrossa said, referring to the classic TV sitcom. "This was a slipshod operation, with no real planning."
Community supportBell's fiancee, parents and their supporters, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and other activists, have demanded that the officers be held accountable. Sharpton said he has sought to temper outrage over the shooting of three unarmed black men and let the trial take its course. Two of the three officers are black.
"We gave the city an opportunity to show that we would be a new city of fairness," he told reporters at City Hall earlier this week.
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.
As seen on MSNBC.com