Bell: Police Bullets Hit, You Must Convict

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

The trial of Sean Bell, who was executed by plainclothes New York Police Department detectives on Nov. 25, 2006 just hours before his wedding day is coming to a close.

This case was not aggressively prosecuted by the Queens District Attorney, and the trigger-happy cops are likely to get off scot-free. Something funky is at work in this trial of Officers Marc Cooper, 40, Michael Oliver, 36, and Gescard Isnora, 29.

All participated in the 50-shots slaughter of Bell, as he left his bachelor party at Club Kahlua at 4 a.m. Officer Cooper faces a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment, while, Oliver and Isnora have been charged with first and second-degree manslaughter, assault and second-degree reckless endangerment.

Detective Michael Oliver fired 31 of the 50 shots—stopping only to reload—which were ignited by the possibly drunken actions of Officer Isnora who followed Bell and his friends Trent Benfield and Joseph Guzman for a full block-and-a-half back to their parked car on Liverpool St. Isnora fired first, which precipitated the 50-shot fusillade which killed Bell and wounded both Benefield and Guzman.

The cops claimed they identified themselves as police before Bell tried to run them over, and this caused them to fire on his car. According to NYPD guidelines cops are supposedly prohibited from firing into a moving car, unless a threat like gunfire is coming from that car.

As this case draws to a close, some observers state the prosecution hasn't proven its; that it introduced pieces of evidence and witnesses that have created "reasonable doubt" beneficial for the cops. Among the witnesses whose testimony is said to have helped the cops’ case is that of Det. Hispolito Sanchez. He testified that someone in Bell's group said, "Yo, go get my gun."

Also, the prosecution put on a forensics expert who claimed that the crime scene was contaminated. Some observers contend the multiplicity of witnesses asked to testify by the prosecution was unnecessary.

Another aspect of this case is the feeling of police that they can't get justice from a Queens' jury, which is why they asked for a bench trial in the first place.

The cops first asked for a change of venue; as was done by the officers who murdered Amadou Diallo, who successfully had their case moved to Albany, and were subsequently all acquitted. When the motion was denied, they ended up with a bench trial before Judge Arthur Cooperman.

On Monday, crime scene expert Alexander Jason testified that he believed it took only a few seconds for the officers to fire the 50 rounds. However, Jason, who test-fired the type of guns NYPD officers use stated that "It took a lot of effort to pull that trigger." That acknowledgment, perhaps unwittingly, solidified the obvious—that the killing of Bell was far from a mistake.

For, as he said "my finger was getting worn out." He testified that the triggers of the guns were adjusted to make them hard to fire accidentally.

From the very beginning of this travesty, the police have lied repeatedly. This outrage was a result of racial profiling and the devaluation of Black life. Some apologists have promulgated the absurd reasoning that race can't be a factor because some of the cops who shot Bell were Black.

Question: didn't the Apartheid rulers of South Africa have "Black" police officers who oppressed Black South Africans and were sometimes the most ardent enforcers? Doesn't the firing of 31 shots by white Officer Michael Oliver represent the sum total of his racial fears and perceptions?

I reported on the murder in the early days of this case. When I went to the Kahlua on November 26, within five minutes of being there, I knew the police had been lying in their official narrative. The first thing that struck me was the distance of Bell's car from the front door of the Kahlua Cabaret.

I walked from the door of the Kahlua to Liverpool Street, and then looked across the police tapes half-way up the block. As I gazed at the broken glass thinking about how the victims’ families would put together the pieces of their lives after this senseless act, the police tale just didn't jive with the facts on the ground.

One crucial insight in this tragedy that has gone virtually unnoticed is the rapidity with which the unmarked police van that we are told that rammed into Bell's car appeared on the scene. How did this van appear so quickly? This police van had to have been a surveillance monitoring van. Furthermore, I believe this surveillance van was already on Liverpool Street all along listening in on the activities inside Kahlua.

Why is any of this important?

Well, first of all, given the distance of Bell's car from the Kahlua he could have been easily intercepted by police, if they really believed he was a threat, before he reached his car on Liverpool Street where this police mini-van, filled with cops, was. Given that prostitution and drug stings include wearing wires and listening devices, why didn't Isnora, or, one of the several cops in Kahlua warn those outside to stop Bell, Benefield and Guzman before they could get to a non-existent gun in their car?

Another ludicrous lie was the fable of the mysterious "fourth man" who cops claim was in Bell's car but escaped while the bullets are flying.

Consider what they expect us to believe. They are telling us that this phantom fired on Isnora and not only got out of the car, but, during the 50 shot volley fled the scene with the gun, never to be found. Do they really think people are that dumb? Judging by their fanciful fables and this sham trial, apparently, they do.


Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News's Editorial Board

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