Unarmed men shot by police
REUTERS/Eric Thayer (UNITED STATES
Reverend Al Sharpton walks with Nicole Paultre
(R), whose fiance is Sean Bell, the 23-year-old
bridegroom who was shot and killed by police
on his wedding day, at a rally to support Bell in
New York November 26, 2006.
Cops shoot groom dead
Hurt 2 pals in barrage of bullets
By VERONIKA BELENKAYA, ALISON GENDAR, MIKE JACCARINO
and ROBERT F. MOORE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Cops blasted 50 bullets at three unarmed men near a Queens strip club early yesterday, killing a groom hours before his wedding, wounding two of his pals and spurring outraged relatives of the victims to call the shooting unjustified.Sharpton was the first pol they reached out to because they know he's not going to back down from challenging the city and the cops. Unlike the Giuliani era, where he acted as if blacks had no rights, Bloomberg was quickly seeking out Sharpton to make sure people understood that the city wasn't going to act as a hostile party.
"Today was his wedding day - not his death day," said .Oniaja Shepherd, 43, whose nephew 23-year-old Sean Bell was slain by police gunfire. "We were supposed to go to a wedding. Now we're going to a funeral."
An undercover detective, three plainclothes detectives and a police officer in civilian clothes hit Bell's car with 21 rounds about 4 a.m. after the Queens man twice rammed his vehicle into an unmarked NYPD van, police said.
One cop fired 31 times, pausing to reload, sources said.
"Our hearts go out to them," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said of Bell's family.
Bell was at the strip club with about 20 friends, police sources said. Two undercover cops, looking to make prostitution arrests, were also inside.
One undercover stayed at the club and the other followed the men as they got into Bell's car on Liverpool St. Bell drove forward, brushing that officer before slamming into the unmarked police van as it rounded the corner, Kelly said. The undercover officer then identified himself as a cop and fired the first round, sources said.
Bell threw the car into reverse and slammed into a building, then drove forward into the van again. Plainclothes cops poured from the van. Five officers at the scene began shooting.
Kelly said the investigation was ongoing. He stopped short of judging the actions of the officers involved. In 2004, he had quickly characterized the shooting of 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury by a Brooklyn cop as unjustified.
Although NYPD sources said the undercover cop at yesterday's incident had identified himself as an officer before police fired, Kelly said no witnesses had confirmed that account and brass had not interviewed the cops, pending a grand jury probe.
"It's not a 'good shoot,' " one veteran investigator said. "It's a big mess."
Mayor Bloomberg issued a statement last night.
"Although it is too early to draw conclusions about this morning's shootings in Jamaica, Queens, we know that the NYPD officers on the scene had reason to believe that an altercation involving a firearm was about to happen and were trying to stop it," Bloomberg said.
He said he had been "in touch with community leaders" throughout the day, and a mayoral spokesman said the leaders included the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Bell's loved ones joined with Sharpton to condemn the cops' actions and demand information.
Lorenzo Kinred, who was at the bachelor party, said he spoke to a wounded Benefield before he was put into an ambulance.
"The police didn't identify who they were," Benefield said, according to Kinred, 32. "They just pulled guns out."
Bell's 22-year-old fiancée was at a bridal shower on Long Island when the dad of her two kids was killed. Puffy-eyed, Paultre arrived at the scene of the shooting yesterday morning. "I am the intended bride," she said before collapsing.
At least two bullets fired during the altercation hit a parked car and another slug flew into a nearby house. A bullet also whizzed by a pair of Port Authority cops standing on an elevated AirTrain platform.
Bell's mom, Valerie, said cops hadn't told her anything about the shooting. "They're covering up, because they know the police did wrong," she charged. "You know how society works. They label all African-American men the same. They should have pulled out a badge before they started shooting."
Rev. Al demands 'fair' probe in slay
BY WARREN WOODBERRY JR. and TINA MOORE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
The Rev. Al Sharpton demanded a "fair and impartial investigation" yesterday into the actions of the cops who shot and killed a young man and wounded two others.
Sharpton pointed out that there was no immediate evidence that 23-year-old Sean Bell and his friends were armed, and condemned cops for arresting and handcuffing the wounded men to their hospital beds.
Sharpton learned of the shooting while driving to his National Action Network in Harlem. His cell phone rang about 9:45 a.m., and the caller, a cousin of the man who was killed, said cops had shot three unarmed black men.
Sharpton headed to Jamaica Hospital, where Bell died on his wedding day. On the way, Sharpton called Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, "to let him know I was very concerned and that I was going to the hospital."
"There's something about this that doesn't smell right," Sharpton told Walcott, whose office said he went to the shooting scene yesterday morning.
City Hall officials refused to say where Mayor Bloomberg was yesterday, but a source said he had been scheduled to play golf in Bermuda. "The mayor was briefed on the incident early this morning, and he and his senior staff have been monitoring the situation all day," Bloomberg spokesman Matthew Kelly said.
Last night, another spokesman said the mayor had spoken to Sharpton by phone.
Sharpton met with Bell's family and called back Walcott. He told the deputy mayor that he wanted police "to - as soon as possible - let these families know what is happening here."
The difference between the police murders of the 1990's, they have witneses alive and breathing here. And the team of cops was multiracial.
But the problem for black New Yorkers is that they are the only recipients of deadly force used on unarmed men, and the perception is that cops can kill black men and go unpunished.
posted by Steve @ 6:34:00 PM