Groom: Killed In Cold Blood

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(Shortly after leaving the bachelor party, the groom to be met his death in a hail of 50 bullets).

Undercover New York Police officers killed an unarmed Black man early Saturday morning, only hours before he was to be married, while wounding two of his friends in a flurry of 50 shots, not far from the Jamaica Train Station in Queens.

A man who said he witnessed the shooting told The Black Star News that police never identified themselves before blasting away at the victims’ car.

In a shooting that already appears eerily reminiscent of the Amadou Diallo case, 23-year-old Sean Bell was fatally wounded by bullets to his neck and arm. Two of his friends Joseph Guzman, 31 and Trent Benefield 23, were also wounded as officers fired repeatedly into Bell’s car. His car was hit by some 21 shots. One officer reportedly fired 31 shots, stopping only to reload.

Bell who was to have been married later in the day was celebrating with a bachelor party at Club Kalua Cabaret a strip club on 94 Avenue. 

Many details remain sketchy, but, according to police the club was the target of an undercover operation targeting prostitution. Police allege that at 3 a.m. one officer heard talk of someone having a gun. Then as 4 a.m. approached an altercation occurred outside the club, and it is said that Bell, Guzman and Benefield and a group of about five other men were shouting threats at another man, police claim.

Not long after, Bell and his friends apparently walked east from the club towards 94 Ave and Liverpool Street where their car was parked, with at least one undercover officer following.  When Bell and his friends were already in the car the police say that one officer who was in pursuit announced he was a cop. At this point, they claim that Bell rammed into a police van and struck an officer.

However, a Hispanic male eyewitness who only wanted to be identified as “Michael� discounts that claim. He said the shooting “was unjustified and uncalled for.� This witness said that the undercover officer who was Black never identified himself and that he didn’t see “no badge� on him. He said that seeing this Black male approaching their car, either, Bell or one of his friends said “he has a gun, he has a gun let’s get out of here.�

He said that this is why Bell rammed “into the bumper of the Toyota Camry and the [unmarked police] van hit him from the side.� He said at "no time whatsoever was there any exchange of words like 'police' or anything." At a crime scene news conference around 2: 30 p.m. Sunday, joined by attorneys Neville Mitchell and Norman Siegel, members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement called for the “immediate removal� of Organize Crime Control Bureau Chief Anthony Izzo along with issuing a vote of “no confidence on Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly� saying “that he should be held accountable.�

They also called for the re-examination of alcohol consumption among “on-duty OCCB officers� as well as “drug and alcohol testing of police officers involved in the use of deadly physical force.�

One of the group’s members, Noel Leader stated that although they have repeatedly reached out to the commissioner that his “door has been closed� to them. Leader stated that there are “systemic problems� within the department and that “Commissioner Kelly has failed� to address them.

Attorney Mitchell decried the shooting by saying that the firing of “50 shots was an act of cowardice.� He also criticized the “level of disrespect� he feels many police have when they go into the Black community. He said that along with members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement that they plan “citywide hearings� in an effort to highlight the true scope of police brutality in the community. Mitchell emphatically declared that when these types of incidents continue that “someone needs to be removed immediately.� He echoed the sentiments of his colleagues that that someone is Chief Izzo.

Lawyer Siegal said that in light of a tragedy that he was “renewing calls for a special prosecutor� to look into these sort of cases. He pointed out that the “people in the community who know what goes down there� and the dynamics of things “lack trust in the current system.�  He also warned that the police can’t be allowed to police themselves.

At the Mary Immaculate Hospital in Queens Bell’s friends are both receiving treatment for multiple gunshot wounds. Benefield who was said to have been shot three times in the back seat of the car is in stable condition. However, Guzman is in critical condition and is said to have about 17 entrance or exit wounds.

Meanwhile, Bell’s father, William is grieving the loss of his son. “This was supposed to be a special day,� he said. “A part of me is now gone.�  Laura Harper-Paultre who would have been Bell’s stepmother said the cops killed him “in cold blood.� She added that “cops are very comfortable killing Black men.�
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