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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Finding the 4th Man

The NYPD is more likely to find this movie
than a 4th man in the Bell shooting

What a Fourth Man Saw, if He Exists, Could Provide Answers in Shooting

Published: December 3, 2006

The police believe that when Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield left Mr. Bell’s bachelor party on Nov. 25 and headed to Mr. Bell’s car, they were accompanied by at least one other man.

But when the smoke cleared and the police gunshots stopped echoing through the streets of Jamaica that morning, there were just three men left: Mr. Bell, a 23-year-old black man, who was dead, and Mr. Guzman and Mr. Benefield, who were injured.

Since then, detectives have looked for a fourth man so they can determine how close he was to the shooting and whether he had a gun. Because the three other men turned out to be unarmed, what the fourth man saw — or what he was holding — could drastically alter the outcome of criminal and internal investigations into whether the police acted properly when they fired 50 bullets at Mr. Bell’s car.

That is, if the fourth man really does exist.

Yesterday, as Mr. Bell was buried and protests in the streets showed how raw the issue had become, investigators held firm to their belief that the fourth man was real. Citing accounts by police and civilian witnesses, they said he was wearing a beige jacket, that he was near Mr. Bell’s car and that he fled when the shooting started. They said they even knew his name: Jean Nelson.

Charlie King, a lawyer for Mr. Nelson, said yesterday that his client was part of Mr. Bell’s bachelor party at Club Kalua, a strip club, and later saw the police shooting. But Mr. King said his client was one of several witnesses. He said that Mr. Nelson was not the closest one to Mr. Bell’s car and, therefore, does not deserve any special designation.

Mr. King even denied that Mr. Nelson, who is also known as Mo, was wearing a beige jacket.

“It’s a red herring,” Mr. King said of the pursuit of a fourth man. “Was there a fourth person present at the time of the shooting? Yeah. There was a fourth person, a fifth person. There were more than four people. But other than the three people who were shot, these people were witnesses to the shooting.”

Mr. King said yesterday that neither Mr. Nelson nor “anyone else in the wedding party” had been in possession of a gun.

Mr. King said he was representing five members of Mr. Bell’s bachelor party, several of whom were witnesses to the shooting, though he would not say precisely how many. He said that all five of his clients, “are cooperating with the Queens district attorney,” and that they would all meet with the district attorney’s office “imminently.”

The district attorney’s office has been in contact with Mr. King and an official there said they believe that his clients will cooperate. Yet to be seen is how Mr. Nelson’s version of events will interplay with other accounts of the shooting.

According to the police, an undercover detective outside the strip club watched Mr. Bell’s group argue with a man and heard one member of Mr. Bell’s group say, “Yo, go get my gun.” The detective said he saw four men walk toward Mr. Bell’s car; the three men who were found in the car and a fourth wearing a beige jacket. And another undercover detective who was there said he had no doubt there was a fourth man at the scene, according to a person familiar with that officer’s account.

They are desperate to find a 4th man to justify the shooting. No 4th man, this winds up in court and someone does time, and they know it.

But there is unlikely to be a 4th Man. No extra superman who had a gun and ran around a police van and didn't get shot. We're talking 20-30 seconds, up to a minute, and there was no time to run away and not get arrested or even seen.

Now, eyewitness testimony is often shaky, so the idea that the cops believe there was a fourth man is not unlikely, but the rattisage in Southern Queens is just making a voilite situation explosive. Their hunting for and arresting black men is not going to help their story.

The problem is that this case is hanging by a thin thread of trust between Bloomberg and the black community, which is the majority community in New York. If Giuliani had been mayor, people would have been dead. Simple as that.

There are already calls for a special prosecutor and for the feds to jump in. I would say that is the far safest way to protect everyone's right.

You have the angry New Black Panther Party protest from people who are good at getting on TV and not so great at organizing. People were flipping out so hard other crowd members had to restrain them. Which is not good when cops have snipers on the roof.

The NYPD has long gotten the benefit of the doubt from City Hall on down. Bloomberg broke that last week, and the cop unions simply don't understand how extremely angry half the city is. They aren't bright, but DT's union chief Michael Palladino is especially stupid. He said they should have been charged. I wouldn't have wanted to be in the police station after that happened.

The papers now realize that unlike the Transit strike, where they had time to recover, if the local papers started buying into the cop story, they couldn't afford the backlash.

Why are things so heated? Because Giuliani is the gift that keeps on giving. He had to give open, public support for the cops in the Diallo and Dorismond shootings, events so poisonous, even with Al Sharpton's help, the black community still walked away from Freddie Ferrer.

Now you have a shooting in the worst possible situation, and you still get the stupid comments like they all had records, what were they doing there, and they were told they were cops.

Here's a bet I'll make. Most of the victims witnesses will be clean, the cops witnesses have records.

So what do I think happened?

I think the undercover got confused. He confused two different groups of men, and when the Bell party saw things were getting stupid, they left with other people. The UC followed the wrong group and when they were confronted, they flipped out and thought it was a carjacking.

The cops surrounded the car and started firing quickly. Which makes what the cops are suggesting almost impossible. Because while someone passed by the car being likely, opening a door, closing it, and holding a gun? Unlikely unless they find the man who did it.

Even if there was a gun, why was there no command to drop it, or halt the vehicle?

I think the lead detective on the scene, Mike Oliver, just lost his shit. He started firing and didn't stop. Why he lost his shit will be a matter to explore. If the Radar online story, run also by the Daily News, that he was a year long habitue of Bungalow 8, his judgement is going to be broasted.

Because the 31 shots hang in the air like nothing else. And his actions seem disproportionate to what was going on there. Which is why there is such a search for an alibi

posted by Steve @ 12:57:00 AM

12:57:00 AM

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