Sean Bell’s Field Of Dreams

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(Sean Bell---dream denied. Photo: Bell family collection).

[BlackStarNews Exclusive]—Sean Bell’s dream was to play Major League Baseball—on the day he died, he had received a call about a Spring tryout, which he planned to attend, with the Los Angeles Dodgers’s, Bell’s father told The Black Star News, in an interview today. Less than two hours after their conversation about this golden opportunity, Sean was gunned down in a hail of 50 police bullets, outside the club Kalua, in Queens.

William Bell recalls how he spent that last fun-filled early morning together with his son and his friends at Kalua, as Sean, 23, savored his last hours as a single man—how could they know profound tragedy loomed? “He told me he loved me,” William Bell recalls, as the last words he heard from his son, as he and Daryl Martin, the godfather, left the club at 3:30 AM, on November 25, to get some rest before the wedding, later that day; they had been there since 1:30 AM. At 4:56 AM, Sean was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital Center and the Bell family’s world turned upside down. Rather than celebrate their son’s new beginning, with wife-to-be Nicole Paultrie, 21, the parents had to bury Sean, a week after the tragedy.

Today’s interview was conducted at the offices of the family’s attorney, Neville Mitchell, in Manhattan. Also present were Valerie Bell, the mother; King Larry Crawford, the cousin; and, Martin, the godfather.

“Sometimes I can’t sleep at night,” Bell, who is retired, recalls. He will never know whether things might have turned out differently had he remained in Kalua with his son that morning.

Yet, even at this time of deep sadness, the family professes faith in God, and in their attorney, Mitchell. The family is heartened by the support from the public, and they repudiate any person or organization calling for violence to avenge their son’s death. They will only endorse peaceful protests. “Whoever is thinking about violence we don’t want violence,” Valerie Bell, who works in a hospital, says. “We want it to be peaceful because that’s how my son was—We just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.” The father adds: “Violence won’t bring him back.”

Mitchell, the attorney says, “My clients are interested in making sure that whoever is criminally liable is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” He said this would include officers at the scene, their supervisors, and senior officers within the New York Police Department. When asked if they would support calls for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s resignation, the parents don’t respond.

The mother was asked about reports, including in this newspaper that some of the undercover officers, including the one who opened fire first and discharged 11 rounds, had been drinking. “They shouldn’t have been allowed in the beginning to be drinking in the club, on duty,” Valerie Bell says. “Even when they say it is to mingle—you can mingle with a soda. Come on, they wouldn’t know if there is any liquor in it.” She was referring to the NYPD’s policy permitting officers to drink during undercover operations in bars.

There’s been much public outpouring of support, in addition to the angry demonstrations. There’ve also been death threats, including a letter sent to the family’s church, expressing regret that the police had “wasted” 49 bullets, according to Mitchell, the attorney.

Yet, today, the family prefer to dwell on their son’s aspirations. He had been recently waiting for a job as an electrician while nursing his dreams of playing in the major leagues. He had maintained his physical conditioning, waiting for that big day.

“He told me he had gotten the call that same day,” the senior Bell says, recalling their conversation at the Kalua, about the tryouts. A spokesperson for the Dodgers says: “We have no way of confirming if there was a scout who invited,” Sean for the tryout. He adds that typically the Spring tryout, held in March, is open and that anywhere from 75 to 150 eager prospects show up. Last year, the Dodgers signed three players from the tryout, he adds. “Some years, we don’t sign any,” adds the spokesperson.

Sean was willing to test his skills. “He would have made it—without a doubt, he would have made it,” the father says. Baseball was Sean’s lifelong love. He started playing with a Little League team in South Ozone Park, called Wakefield Little League, the mother says. “He played with them until age 12 then went to a group called the Dukes, in South Ozone Park. And he traveled. He went to Florida for tournaments, he went to Ohio for tournaments,” the mother recalls, her eyes lighting up for a minute. “He did get around—baseball was his love.”

Both Sean and his father were Mets fans, the father says. “We went to so many games together,” he says. While the family decline to dwell on the details of Sean’s killing, the parents say they did meet with mayor Michael Bloomberg. There is a hint of dismay that he didn’t seem to be on the same page with commissioner Kelly. Mitchell, the attorney, notes that while Bloomberg found the firing of 50 shots “excessive” and “inexplicable,” Kelly later indicated that that was the mayor’s opinion. “Basically, he’s telling the cops to ignore the mayor,” Mitchell says.

The parents express disbelief at the manner in which police conducted themselves in the minutes before Sean’s killing. “If they felt the people in the car had guns, one of them would have got shot,” Valerie Bell says, referring to how police were exposed as they approached. “Come on, you’re shooting at this car—at a point you had to stop and if you don’t feel these bullets, common sense would tell you let me just go there a little bit closer to make sure everything is okay.”

“Why weren’t they contained before they got in the car?” Bell, the father, wonders. “Why would they allow them to get in the car if they have a gun? That makes more sense to me.”

Moreover, Bell and Martin ridicule the police’s assertion that an officer overheard someone talking about a gun, inside the club. Martin, who works for the MTA, says even though he was seated practically next to Sean, every time he wanted to tell him something he had to lean towards his ear to be heard. “I don’t understand how this cop can possibly hear anybody say ‘go get a gun,’” Martin says.

The family is reluctant to speculate as to the motives of the police officers. However, Crawford, the cousin contrasts the manner in which secret service officers subdued and disarmed, John Hinckley, the gunman after he tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, by wrestling him to the ground, with the way Sean Bell was treated. “A man who didn’t have a weapon should have been allowed the same process as a man who shot Reagan,” Crawford says.

“I always thought there were rules and regulations to follow,” Valerie Bell concludes. “To fire 50 shots is uncalled for. Come on. Everybody should know right from wrong.”
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