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Monday, November 27, 2006

How to spin a killing

(AP Photo/Adam Rountree)
Rev. Al Sharpton, upper right, New York City
Councilman Charles Barron, upper center, and
family members of the victims of a police shooting,
Denise Ford, lower left, the mother of Trent Benefield,
and Ebony Guzman, lower center, the wife of Joseph
Guzman, are seen during a rally outside of Mary
Immaculate Hospital in the Queens borough of
New York on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006.

Bloomberg, Kelly respond to wedding day slay

Politicians, activists speak against killing of man on wedding day, saying it’s reminiscent of past police brutality
By Reid J. Epstein.

November 27, 2006, 7:45 AM EST

Mayor Bloomber and Police Commission Ray Kelly will meet with community leaders at City Hall Monday at 11 a.m. in response to out outrage over a police shooting that killed a Queens groom just hours before his wedding.

Saturday, undercover police fired 50 shots at a car carrying a Sean Bell, 23, a deliveryman and father of two, as he left his bachelor parts at the Kalua Cabaret in Jamaica about 4 a.m. and now protestors want answers.

By yesterday afternoon, the Rev. Al Sharpton and others were comparing Bell to Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima and other high-profile victims of police brutality.

"I have a feeling that this case is going to be a watershed case like Diallo and Louima," Sharpton said. "This is going to be a watershed on the vice squad and undercover policing."

Speaking outside the Community Church of Christ in Jamaica, Sharpton said Bell's death - and the serious injuries suffered by two friends who were in the car with him - has angered some people. At one of a series of rallies yesterday, crowds at Rufus King Park near Mary Immaculate Hospital where Bell's friends Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield are being treated, chanted "no justice, no peace" and counted together from one to 50 to simulate the number of shots fired.

"I'm going to keep this in the street," Sharpton said.

Outside the hospital, Guzman's wife, Eboni Guzman, said her husband was "holding up perfectly." She declined to elaborate, but said "everything will be taken care of through a lawyer."

A spokeswoman for the hospital said last night that Benefield's and Guzman's conditions remained the same as on Saturday. Benefield was listed in stable condition at that time, while Guzman was in critical condition.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said yesterday that Benefield spoke to police from his hospital bed Saturday and told them police began firing once he was inside the car.

Browne said the department would not discuss whether the victims have criminal records. A source indicated that some of those records are sealed by a court, which may mean they involved juvenile offenses.

Well, that's the story they gave to Newsday, the story they gave to the Post is quite different.


The undercovers, who usually worked in Manhattan, were on the last night of their two-month Queens job to try to nail the Kalua and other clubs on such violations as drugs and underage prostitution.

Inside the club, one of the plainclothes cops sat next to a woman he thought was a hooker and might proposition him, the sources said.

Suddenly, a burly man approached them and told the woman that he had heard she had gotten into a fight with a group of guys earlier in the club. It was unclear what it was over.

The woman was overheard saying to the men arguing with Bell's pals, "I'm not doing you all. I'll do one or two, but not all," according to the sources.

Around the same time, the undercover said he heard Bell's friend Joseph Guzman tell his buddies, "Yo, get my gun! Get my gun! Let's get my gun from the car! Yeah, we're gonna f- - - him up!" the sources said.
That's when the undercover put his right leg up on the hood of the Altima and began screaming that he was a cop, the sources said.

The cop was leaning over the hood of the car to try to see the hands of the people inside and make sure they didn't have any guns, they said. But Bell floored the gas pedal and headed for the cop, the sources said, striking him and badly cutting his knee.

One of the Altima's passengers - who possibly had a gun - jumped out of the back of the car, the sources said.

Around the same time, an unmarked Toyota Camry driven by a plainclothes police lieutenant and another cop behind him pulled up, but overshot Bell's car. A police van with an officer and the narcotics detective then managed to block Bell's car in.
Bell was killed, Guzman critically injured, and a third friend, Trent Benefield, was shot. They are expected to live.

Benefield later told a friend from his hospital bed that he and his buddies didn't know the undercovers were cops.

He told investigators, "I got into the car, and there was all this shooting."

It was unclear when the other four men who were originally fighting with Bell and his pals fled the scene. They were spotted leaving in a black SUV.

Bell had been arrested three times in the past: twice for drugs and one on a gun rap in a case that was sealed. Guzman has been busted nine times, including for armed robbery. He spent two stretches in state prison in the '90s. Benefield has a sealed record as a juvenile for gun possession and robbery.

Some marijuana was later found near the Altima, and investigators believe that it may have been tossed out by the group before the gunfire. Two bullet casings also were recovered from the Altima, although cops said they do not believe they were from a police gun.

The shooting of Bell, who was black, has ignited racial tensions in the city - even though the cops involved included two blacks, a Hispanic and two whites.

The five cops who fired shots were put on administrative duty. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said it was the first time that any of the officers were involved in a shooting.

Detectives Endowment Association President Michael Palladino said the cops were justified in firing off a total of 50 bullets at unarmed men because Bell was using his car as a lethal weapon.

"Once the threat ended, so did the shooting."

I guess the records are only sealed for Newsday, because they certainly aren't for the Post.

Without ANY evidence, they now want to suggest the victims are high on drugs as well, trying to run down people they know are cops.

And the head of the Detectives Union wants to suggest that the dead driver was trying to kill a cop.

However other sources claim that the most shots, 31 out of 50, came from a white detective who reloaded

Trigger-happy cop never fired his gun in 12 years, source sez


The white detective who squeezed off 31 of 50 shots at three unarmed men outside a Queens strip joint had a clean record, never fired his gun in the line of duty and was known as a good street cop.

His unblemished history left fellow officers puzzled yesterday over what led the 12-year veteran to get down on one knee and empty two clips on the darkened Jamaica street early Saturday morning.

"He lost it. Four or five rounds - maybe. But to reload? It's hard to understand. Even in the heat of the moment, it's overkill," a law enforcement source said.

This is a detail the Post story didn't have

Anger in streets

Hundreds rally as 5 cops put on leave and DA sets probe



Kelly said statements an undercover officer overheard inside the club led police to believe the men were going to retrieve a weapon. No gun was found in Bell's car.

Trini Wright, 28, a dancer at the club, insisted the cops opened fire without identifying themselves. She was planning to go with Bell and his friends to a diner and was putting her makeup bag in the trunk of their car when the cops' minivan appeared.

"The minivan came around the corner and smashed into their car. And they [the cops] jumped out shooting," Wright told The News. "No 'stop.' No 'freeze.' No nothin

Michael Daly, long a pro-cop columnist, got another version of the shooting

"Yo, my man, come here, my man, let me holler at you," the figure was heard to call out.

The tall figure was holding something black by his side.

"He's got a gat! He's got a gat! Be out! Be out!" the young man climbing into the car shouted.

The figure was an undercover cop, but by one witness account neither he nor his comrades announced themselves as police officers until after Sean Bell tried in vain to drive away and six to 10 shots were fired.

"That's when somebody started shouting, 'Police! Police! Put your hands out! Put your hands out!'" recalls witness China Flores.

The shooting only intensified.

"That's when all hell broke loose," Flores says.

One cop fired 31 times, but regardless of how he is ultimately judged by the law, a harsher public judgment should be reserved for the senior commander at the scene. This lieutenant is said to have been so certain he was being fired upon he ducked under the dashboard of his undercover vehicle while the cops he was supposed to supervise fired a total of 50 rounds.

Flores says a fourth young man who was about to join the three in the Altima dashed off, making a cell phone call on the next block. Flores also says that one of the three in the car, Trent Benefield, staggered out holding his right upper leg.

"He's shouting, 'Stop shooting at me! Stop shooting at me!'" Flores reports.

Flores says a shorter plainclothes cop kept firing at Benefield after he hit the pavement.

"[The cop] is telling him, 'Lay down! Lay down!'" Flores recalls. "The guy's already on the floor. He's shot."
The Times is looking at why so many shots were fired

50 Shots Fired, and the Experts Offer a Theory

Published: November 27, 2006

It is known in police parlance as “contagious shooting” — gunfire that spreads among officers who believe that they, or their colleagues, are facing a threat. It spreads like germs, like laughter, or fear. An officer fires, so his colleagues do, too.
Skip to next paragraph

From top left, Robert Coombs, Stephon Donaldson and Dewan Seabrooks joined Nicole Paultre, bottom right, whose fiancé was killed, and the Rev. Al Sharpton. The shooting happened early on Saturday, hours before Ms. Paultre was to wed the victim, Sean Bell.

The phenomenon appears to have happened last year, when eight officers fired 43 shots at an armed man in Queens, killing him. In July, three officers fired 26 shots at a pit bull that had bitten a chunk out of an officer’s leg in a Bronx apartment building. And there have been other episodes: in 1995, in the Bronx, officers fired 125 bullets during a bodega robbery, with one officer firing 45 rounds.

Just what happened on Saturday is still being investigated. Police experts, however, suggested in interviews yesterday that contagious shooting played a role in a fatal police shooting in Queens Saturday morning. According to the police account, five officers fired 50 shots at a bridegroom who, leaving his bachelor party at a strip club, twice drove his car into a minivan carrying plainclothes police officers investigating the club.

The bridegroom, Sean Bell, who was to be married hours later, was killed, and two of his friends were wounded, one critically.

To the layman, and to the loved ones of those who were shot, 50 shots seems a startlingly high number, especially since the men were found to be unarmed. And police experts concede that the number was high. Yet they also note that in those chaotic and frightening fractions of a second between quiet and gunfire, nothing is clear-cut, and blood is pumping furiously. Even 50 shots can be squeezed off in a matter of seconds.

“We can teach as much as we can,” said John C. Cerar, a retired commander of the Police Department’s firearms training section. “The fog of the moment happens. Different things happen that people don’t understand. Most people really believe what it’s like in television, that a police officer can take a gun and shoot someone out of the saddle.”

The five officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative duty yesterday — without their guns — as the Police Department and the Queens district attorney investigated the circumstances surrounding the shooting, and relatives of Mr. Bell, joined by the Rev. Al Sharpton, staged a rally and a march to demand answers.

The officers have not yet been interviewed by police investigators or prosecutors to give their account.

Again and again, the focus of the day returned to the number of bullets that went flying.

One of the officers fired more than half the rounds, pausing to reload, and then emptying it again, 31 shots in all, according to the police. Another officer fired 11 shots. The others fired four shots, three shots and one shot apiece, the police said.

But it is the total number of shots that shook and angered the families of the men and community leaders. “How many shots?” Mr. Sharpton asked yesterday, over and over, in a chant at a rally in a park near Mary Immaculate Hospital, where the wounded men were being treated. The crowd called back, “Fifty!

What I don't think Bloomberg or the cops understand is the underlying anger about this shooting. There is no Giuliani to deflect or blame for this. Bloomberg is trying to keep his head down, but the cop's story is going to be challenged by the surviving witnesses. When the Diallo and Dorismond murders went unpunished, that issues has been a discordant undernote within New York politics. Now, with what seems
to be a reckless shooting, I seriously don't think that they know how angry people are about this.

Leaking sealed records are going to cause a rather nasty reaction fairly soon. I know why the cops wanted their story out in the Post,but they may soon regret trying to smear the victims.

Too many times white cops, and the main shooter, who was white, fired 31 times, have been excused for killing law-abiding black men. Trying to disclose their sealed criminal records to dirty them up didn't work with Patrick Dorismond, and may well blow up on Kelly and Bloomberg.

I think they are going to have a real problem substantiating that Guzman said anything about getting a gun. And suugesting that marijuana was near the car is more likely to make people think they were framing these guys than that they had dope on them.

The cops are also going to have a problem finding the mystery passenger who "may" have been armed. How could he flee on foot with so much survelliance around?

Unlike in past shootings, where there were no witnesses, the cops story will be challenged by the survivors.

posted by Steve @ 9:37:00 AM

9:37:00 AM

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