Sean Bell Parents Want Cuomo To Okay Special Prosecutor In Police Killings

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Vanzant with parents of victims

In the wake of the killing of a 50- year-old Black man shot in the back 8 times by a White police officer in Charleston, S. Carolina, motivational speaker and author, Iyanla Vanzant, joined family members of police shooting victims to discuss the rampant spree of police brutality in Black communities.

Parents of a victim in a notorious New York case called for Governor Andrew Cuomo to appoint a permanent special prosecutor who would handle deaths at the hand of police.

The panel, which took place at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network's annual convention in Midtown, included: Esaw Garner, the wife of Eric Garner; Valerie and William Bell, the parents of Sean Bell; Nicole Pautre Bell, the widow of Sean Bell; Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown; and, Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice.

The panel addressed the alarming swell in police shootings linking White cops to the unprovoked killings of unarmed Black men. “It makes no sense, according to what our core notions of humanity and decency and justice are," Mayor Bill De Blasio said of the recent shootings.

Sharpton, who introduced the panel, said in the wake of the shooting death of Walter Scott, the 50-year-old man murdered by the police in Charleston: “When I heard Saturday what happened . . . and then saw the video, I immediately thought of these families,” referring to the family members on the panel.

The shooting death of Scott brought back painful emotions to the families on the panel who lost loved ones to police shootings, including Esaw Garner, whose husband, Eric Garner,  died last July from a police chokehold.

“Sometimes I just feel so lost,” she said while being comforted by moderator, Iyanla Vanzant and Leslie McSpadden. “It’s been nine months and I haven’t been able to shake it. I don’t mean to break down in front of all of you guys. I get so much support from strangers and I never knew that strangers can show so much love and compassion for someone that they don’t even know. I just feel so alone and my son came home from college last night and I was watching the news and they showed a small clipping of his video and I stared crying.”

Other family members on the panel shared both her grief and her pain.

“We’re in a war here,” added Samaria Rice, the mother of 12-year-old, Tamir Rice, shot by police for carrying a toy gun. “And I just want to continue to fight and to bring awareness of police brutality.”

The mother of Michael Brown, the unarmed Missouri teen shot down by a White cop in August, said she’s also concerned for her three other children.

“It’s scary to live in a city where you’re less than 5 miles away from where the incident happened and no one shows you any respect,” she said.

The parents of Sean Bell, the 23-year-old man who died in the hail of 50 bullets on his wedding day, vowed to continue their crusade for the memory of their son as they looked for support to get Governor Cuomo to sign an executive order mandating special prosecutors for police shootings. “We pray and hope that killings are not going to happen again. But the way things are going on, it’s always happening,” said Valerie Bell.

Iyanla Vanzant ended the panel discussion with a question to former CNN journalist, Soledad O'Brien, who was also on the panel, "What are we going to do about accountability?"

"We need to continue using video," O'Brien responded. "The video camera is our ally in these cases."



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