Posted April 14, 2008 – The Rev. Al Sharpton, joined by loved ones of Sean Bell, the 23-year-old unarmed Black man who was killed by New York City police on the eve of his wedding day, urged a judge Saturday to convict the three detectives who fired the fatal shots.
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Sharpton, making his cries for justice at his National Action Network House of Justice in Harlem, was flanked by Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Paultre-Bell and Joseph Guzman, who was hit by 16 of the 50 police bullets that felled Bell outside a Queens nightclub in November 2006.
Guzman and Trent Benefield, had accompanied their good friend, Bell, to a bachelor party when they were fired upon by three detectives, Gescard F. Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper. The policemen, who were in plainclothes and reportedly investigating prostitution at the club, said they had approached the three men and identified themselves as NYPD but heard one of them say, “Get the gun.” It was only then, the officers contend, that they opened fire.
But Guzman and Benefield say that not only did the detectives fail to identify themselves, but they began shooting without cause, as if they were trying to kill them for no reason.
No gun was ever retrieved from the scene.
Guzman said that during the trial, which has been heard by a judge in the New York Supreme Court over the past two weeks, he has been treated as if he were a criminal. Bell’s mother said too that she was appalled by the way the three victims were characterized in court by the attorneys of the three officers.
Said Sharpton during his Saturday news conference: "They still have not established in the court why the police went after them in the first place. There was no crime to cause you to go after them which is why [the detectives] must be convicted, guilty for reckless behavior.”
Both sides have rested their cases.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin today. The judge will decide the verdict, since the detectives waived their right to a jury trial, believing that they would get a fairer shake from a judge.
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