A crowd reacts to the verdict in the Sean Bell shooting case outside the Queens County Criminal Courts Building in New York Friday, April 25.
Three detectives were acquitted of all charges Friday in the killing of Sean Bell. Bell died after being bombarded with 50 bullets by the New York Police Department back in 2006.
Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora were found not guilty of charges of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment in the death of Sean Bell, 23, and the wounding of two of his friends. Detective Marc Cooper was acquitted of reckless endangerment.
Justice Arthur Cooperman said he found problems with the prosecution’s case. He said some prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves, and he cited prior convictions and incarcerations of witnesses.
As the judge read his decision, Nicole Paultre Bell — Sean Bell’s fiancee — ran from the courtroom crying, saying, “I’ve got to get out of here.”
In the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2006, Sean Bell, a 23-year-old New York City man due to be married later that day, walked out of a Queens strip club, climbed into a gray Nissan Altima with two friends who had been celebrating with him – and died in a hail of 50 bullets fired by a group of five police officers.
The shooting shocked the city and brought back memories of the deaths in other high-profile police shootings – in particular, the death of Amadou Diallo, an African peddler killed after police fired 41 shots at him in 1999. Both men were black and both were unarmed, although in both cases the officers appeared to have believed the suspect had a gun. While the death of Mr. Bell did not prompt the same levels of rage and protest as the Diallo case, it prompted unsettling questions about the changes in police procedures adopted in recent years, and about whether black men remained unfairly singled out for aggressive police action.