Fifty-plus Bullets Trial Opens
â€œA man got out the minivan standing in front of the minivan with the door open and started shooting,â€? she said, in her chilling testimony. â€œI saw the fire three times and then I ran.â€?
[On The Spot]
For the past two days, testimony has taken place in the trial of the November 25, 2006 early morning shooting that involved five members of the New York Police Department (NYPD).
On November 24, 2006, the men were working in plain street clothes on the 9:27 P.M. to 6 A.M. tour, assigned as, “Club Initiatives,” – the target being drugs and underage prostitution at a gentlemen’s club called “The Kalua Club,” located on 94th Avenue in South Jamaica Queens.
When the day was over, Sean Bell, an unarmed Black man, was dead and his two friends Joseph Guzman, and Trent Benefield seriously wounded, thanks for 50-plus bullets fired by the officers in street clothes.
It was on that fateful day that Bell, a bridegroom, held a bachelor’s party in the Kalua Club. It was also learned through testimony that the party was a last minute thing. It was just a few guys going to the club to celebrate with their friend who was about to take a serious step in his life – getting married.
Party time came to an end in the early morning of November 25, 2006, and the club closed its doors at approximately 4 A.M.; Sean Bell’s wedding was only a few hours away.
However, unbeknownst to anyone who attended the Kalua Club that evening, there were nine undercover New York City police offices in the area. Their tour of duty was to end at 6 A.M. The officers had two hours to kill – no pun intended.
According to court testimony, Sean Bell left the club at approximately 4:05 A.M., for the last time, after being escorted back into the Kalua Club by a security guard to retrieve his hat. He exited, made a right turn and walked eastbound on 94th Avenue toward Liverpool Street to where his car was parked. This is where the Kalua Club story ends
The detectives involved in the shooting were allegedly staking out a gentlemen’s night club – called the “Kalua Club.” Early reports and photographs of the crime scene place the shooting “outside” the Kalua Club, which is not true. The distance between the crime scene and the Kalua Club is maybe the length of approximately five or six city buses.
The crime scene is nowhere near the Kalua Club and this type of erroneous reporting was disseminated worldwide.
The defendants’ attorneys alleged the media had already swayed the minds of any potential jurors from Queens; the defendants waived their right to a jury trial. The case is being heard by a judge.
On day two of this trial, testimony in the Queens Supreme Court before Judge Arthur Cooperman was meticulously laid out by Marseilles Payne, a.k.a. Trini Wright; she is a state‘s eyewitness and former exotic dancer for the Kalua Club. Her testimony, at times, brought her, as well as many other people in the courtroom, to tears.
Payne testified that she left the Kalua Club at approximately 4 A.M. and went to her car parked on Liverpool Street.
She said she planned to drive their car to where she was to join Bell and his friends Benefield and Guzman for breakfast.
“I opened my trunk to put my makeup bag in the trunk,” she continued. ‘I saw them pull out,” she added, of Bell and his friends. Then she said a she heard “a wheel squeak and engine of a car racing and then crash passenger to passenger,” referring to a minivan running into Bell‘s vehicle.
“A man got out the minivan standing in front of the minivan with the door open and started shooting,” she said, in her chilling testimony. “I saw the fire three times and then I ran.”
“I sat in the lady’s bushes put my head between my legs until the gun shots stopped,” she said, of her hiding spot near the scene of the shooting. “Then when I was about to get up the shots began again and I got back down after a three second pause,” Payne testified.
Payne, who could not recall how many shots were fired said she ran back to the club and banged on the door and yelled, “They are killing those boys.”
“I went back to my car to move it before the cops came,” she continued. “The man who asked me for a date was running up and down the block and this time he was wearing a shield around his neck,” Payne testified.
When Payne began to describe the crime scene, she began to cry out loud. “There was no one around, they were just lying there not moving,” she blurted.
Nicole Paultre Bell cried out during this part of Payne’s testimony and Sean Bell’s mother had to leave the court; several spectators could be seen wiping tears.
Defendants Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper, sat alongside their attorneys listening to Payne’s testimony, which is a much different account than theirs.
Each of their attorneys tried to twist the witness’ statements; but clearly this is no Dream Team.
Judge Cooperman has a lot of work ahead of him as these attorneys try to put witnesses on trial as well as the communities they live in.
Isnora’s attorney in questioning Payne suggested that she lied to the police to protect her friends. “The reason I told the police I knew nothing, was because I did not want to get involved. I lied because I have two children and ever since this happened, my life has been hell. People are coming into my house uninvited. Me and my kids have gone through a lot,” Payne stated in her testimony crying at the same time.
Payne testified to the fact that she was literally kidnapped by the police and taken to the 103rd precinct against her will. “I was questioned at the 103rd precinct,” she said crying, “I was there for 18 hours and questioned by five different detectives. They kept me locked in a room without food and they would not let me check on my children. I told them everything, it was about 2 P.M., and they still would not let me go,” Payne testified.
Each attorney tried to trip Payne up in her testimony. Oliver’s attorney asked her three times about her saying she heard 20 shots to the police. Payne continued to say she was telling the truth then and she is now telling the truth at trial.
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