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Friday, December 08, 2006

The shooting of Sean Bell

The blocks where the Bell Shooting took

Ballistics Report Is Guide to Queens Police Killing

Published: December 8, 2006

The Police Department has delivered to prosecutors in Queens a 43-page ballistics report on the shooting of Sean Bell, a crucial piece of evidence that will act almost as an annotated guide to how the 50-shot police fusillade that claimed his life unfolded.

Specific details from the report — like which of five police officers who fired that night were responsible for the shot or shots that ended Mr. Bell’s life — could not be learned, but a published report said one fatal shot came from Detective Michael Oliver, a 12-year veteran who fired 31 times during the fateful moments outside the Club Kalua strip club in Jamaica on Nov. 25.

A law enforcement official who was not privy to the ballistics report said that statistically, Detective Oliver was most likely to have fired the fatal rounds because he fired far more bullets than anyone else. Several officials declined to confirm the report about Detective Oliver, which appeared in The New York Post.

The ballistics evidence will paint a picture of the shooting that prosecutors can use to help gauge the accounts of potential witnesses, including the five officers who fired into Mr. Bell’s car, killing him on the morning of his wedding and injuring two of his friends.

In short, the bullets tell a story.

Four bullets were recovered from Mr. Bell’s body during an autopsy conducted by the office of the city’s chief medical examiner. One of his friends, Trent Benefield, was struck three times, in the leg and buttock. Another, Joseph Guzman, had at least 11 bullet wounds along his right side. Many of those bullets or fragments are in the hands of investigators.

On the other side, investigators know precisely how many bullets each of the five shooting officers fired: 31 from Detective Oliver; 11 from a detective working undercover; 4 by another officer; 3 by Officer Michael Carey; and 1 by the fifth officer, a detective.

Ellen S. Borakove, a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner’s office, said pathologists were able to determine that two of the shots that hit Mr. Bell were fatal, one that hit him in the right side of his neck, perforating his larynx, and one that perforated his liver and right lung.

The pattern of shots and where the slugs and casings came to rest could also possibly shed light on whether a fourth man was in the car with Mr. Bell and his two friends, a notion embraced by some of those who have been briefed on some of the officers’ accounts but repeatedly denied by the wounded men, their lawyers and others.

Indeed, the document could become the focus of intense debate, especially if the case results in an indictment and reaches a trial, as it did in the shooting of Amadou Diallo in 1999, when each side tried to use parts of the analysis to support its version of events.

Still, while the hard forensic facts, like much of what is in the report, can prove invaluable as prosecutors in the office of the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, seek to piece together the seconds during which the shots were fired, an official involved in the investigation said that it has its limits.

“We’re living in an age where everyone watches “CSI” and thinks we can tell everything from the forensics,” the official said. “We can tell a lot, but it’s not going to give us a video of the incident. But we try and take all of the physical evidence and establish what we can establish, in addition to what the eyewitnesses and in some cases what the ear witnesses tell us.”

It remains unclear whether the five officers who fired their guns that night will provide statements to prosecutors and testify about the shooting without immunity before a grand jury, though some have suggested through their lawyers that they may.

OK. What isn't clear until you look at the map is how the story played out.

According to the cops, they followed them nearly a block in two cars. They were waiting for them to get to the car and see if they had a gun. However, one can ask why didn't the cops stop them before they got to a weapon and had nearly a block to do that and cut them off.

What makes the cops story interesting is the idea that someone would walk a block to get a gun, come back and shoot someone. Wouldn't it make sense to send someone to fetch said weapon and then meet them outside? Why leave in a group to get one gun?

But what is clear from the position of the cars is that it is unlikely anyone could have passed them. Now in the confusion, people might have seen phantoms, but look at where the cars were

The blue are police, the red the Bell party.

Now, this is a dark, but well travelled street. The Bell party had no reason, according to their lawyers, to think that they were being approached by police. Even if the cops had identified themselves, it is likely the windows were rolled up and everyone frightened of being carjacked, so hearing it would have been impossible. But what is more likely is that they wanted to keep the element of suprise and didn't say anything.

I don't see how anyone could have seen someone reaching for their waistband when only the shoulders would be visible except from close up. And putting on a seatbelt might have mimicked the same actions.

A fourth man would have had to run past the police on either end of the street, and the cops quickly surrounded the car. And as you can see, not much room to manuver.

The cops have been dirting up the victims, arresting their friends and going slow on the investigation, because something went wrong. Look at where the cars were, how Bell was shadowed for a block, then blocked in. If they had stopped them at the corner or when they were entering the car, maybe no shooting would have occured.

Trying to depict the dead as nascient criminals helps neither the community or the police. Nor does harassing the witnesses. It makes them look like they are guilty and had something to hide.
When people try to explain this away as an accident, they want to think it was one mistake, not a compliation of mistakes, which is more likely than not.

Just look at the scene and see if the cops story makes sense.

posted by Steve @ 2:09:00 AM

2:09:00 AM

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