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NYPD Bullet Kills Groom
on Wedding Day

ADAM GOLDMAN / AP 25nov2006

 

Police opened fire early Saturday on a car full of men driving away from a bachelor party at a strip club, killing the groom on his wedding day in a shooting that drew a furious outcry from family members but little immediate explanation from police.

The shooting, which also left two other men hospitalized, drew angry protests from family members and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

As many as eight officers may have been involved in the shooting near the Kalua Cabaret in Queens, said Sgt. Mike Wysokowski, another department spokesman. There were no reports that any officers were wounded, Officer Kathleen Price said.

"First it was like four shots," said Abraham Kamara, 38, who lives a few blocks from the scene of the shooting and said he was getting ready for work at the time. "And then it was like pop-pop-pop like 12 times."

Police said little about the deadly incident other than the shooting stemmed from an undercover operation inside the club. Officers were "observing a group that later got into a confrontation with back-up officers outside," said a police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation had not been completed.

The intersection where the shooting occurred remained blocked off Saturday afternoon as police inspected a car and a minivan and placed dozens of crime scene markers on the ground where shell casings had been recovered.

Denise Ford, who said her son was one of the survivors, said the trio's car had hit an unmarked police vehicle. Police did not immediately confirm that either of the vehicles in the intersection belonged to the department.

"All I know, they was celebrating," Ford said of the men. She said the man who died was the groom. "The guy was getting married today."

Relatives identified the man killed early Saturday as Sean Bell, 23. Sharpton said Bell and his fiancee had two children, ages 5 months and 3 years.

Sharpton said after visiting the two wounded men — Trent Benefield, 23, and Joseph Guzman, 31 — that he was outraged to find the pair handcuffed to their hospital beds. He said one suffered 17 wounds, though it was unclear how many were bullet wounds, and the other man was shot three times.

One of the wounded men was in critical condition at Mary Immaculate Hospital and the other was listed as stable.

"We're not anti-police ... we're anti-police brutality," Sharpton said.

Sharpton said family members told him that there were no guns in the young men's car and "there was no reason for the police to shoot."

"On the face of it, it seems to me to be certainly something that causes extreme alarm and must be thoroughly investigated," said the civil rights leader, who said he was called by a relative of Bell.

Robert Porter, who identified himself as a cousin of Bell, said about 250 people were invited to Saturday's wedding and were flying in from all over the country. He said his cousin wasn't the type to confront police and was "on the straight and narrow."

Roy Brown, who said he works as a photographer at the club, said sirens sounded not long after the three men left the club.

"They weren't rowdy or nothing like that," said Brown, 57.

The owner of the building, Juan Escobar, would not say who owned the Kalua Cabaret. A message seeking comment was left at a phone number listed for the club.

In 1999, NYPD officers killed Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant who was shot 19 times in the entry to his apartment building. The four officers in that case were acquitted of criminal charges.

In 2003, Ousmane Zongo, 43, a native of the western African country of Burkina Faso, was killed during a police raid on a warehouse where he repaired art and musical instruments. Zongo was shot four times, twice in the back.

Associated Press writers Cristian Salazar and Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.


Police Kill Bridegroom and Wound 2 in Queens

ROBERT D. McFADDEN / New York Times 26nov2006

 

Hours before he was to be married, a man leaving his bachelor party at a strip club in Queens that was under police surveillance was shot and killed in a hail of police bullets early yesterday, witnesses and the police said. Two of his friends were wounded, one critically, they said.

Many circumstances of the shootings were not immediately clear, but relatives of the slain man, Sean Bell, 23, and community leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, demanded an investigation into what some called an overreaction by officers that killed a man on his wedding day.

Witnesses told of chaos, screams and gunfire near the Kalua club at 143-08 94th Avenue in Jamaica just after 4 a.m. as the victims walked out, got into their silver Nissan Altima, drove half a block, turned a corner and struck a black unmarked police minivan bearing plainclothes officers.

The car then backed up, nearly hitting an undercover officer, and shot forward, slamming again into the police van, the police said.

The police response, witnesses said, was a fusillade of bullets by five of eight officers that riddled the victims’ car, ripped into other cars and slammed through an apartment window near the shooting, on Liverpool Street near 94th Avenue. It was unclear how many shots were fired. One witness estimated at least 30. Shell casings littered the street.

Mr. Bell, who was to have been wed at 5 p.m. yesterday to Nicole Paultre, the mother of his two small daughters, was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The two wounded men, Joseph Guzman, 21, and Trent Benefield, 23, were taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital, where Mr. Guzman was listed in critical condition and Mr. Benefield in stable condition.

Angry relatives of the wounded men said that both had been arrested and later manacled to their hospital beds. They said that Mr. Guzman had been shot 17 times and that Mr. Benefield had been shot in the leg and handcuffed at the scene.

Mr. Sharpton said at an afternoon news conference that Mr. Guzman might have been struck by 8 to 17 bullets. “The doctor told us it was 17 wounds,” which could have included entry and exit points, he said.

The police declined to say whether any charges had been lodged and gave few details about what had happened, calling it a matter under investigation. A spokesman, however, acknowledged that five of eight officers at the scene had fired their weapons and that no guns had been found in the victims’ car, which was being examined by the authorities.

It was unclear if any officers were injured, or if any of those who fired the shots were being questioned. Legal experts said, however, that investigators, at the behest of prosecutors, almost never immediately interrogated officers involved in fatal shootings because doing so might grant a form of immunity and jeopardize later prosecutions. “This is a shocking case,” Mr. Sharpton, a civil rights leader who has often protested police actions in high-profile and racially charged cases, said at the afternoon news conference outside Mary Immaculate Hospital, his second of the day in the case. He was flanked by relatives and friends of the victims, most of them somber and some sobbing.

Since no weapons were found in the victims’ car, Mr. Sharpton challenged the police to explain what had happened and why, and he insisted there was no basis for any charges against the wounded men.

Earlier at Jamaica hospital, Mr. Sharpton, standing with Ms. Paultre and other of the victims’ loved ones, said he had been called in by Mr. Bell’s family and had protested to the city. He added: “Something about this story doesn’t smell right.”

Ms. Paultre and Mr. Bell, who lived together at 91 Beach 27th Street in Far Rockaway, Queens, had been sweethearts since high school. Relatives said their daughters are Jordyn, 3, and Jada, 5 months old.

Mr. Sharpton said: “Today she’s planning for his funeral rather than his wedding.”

Marie Gillion, an aunt of Ms. Paultre, said in a telephone interview that relatives had been overjoyed at the prospect of their wedding. “The family wanted them to be married. And for this to happen. This is so sad.”

Cara Buckley, Roja Heydarpour and Daryl Kahn contributed reporting.

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/nyregion/26cops.html 25nov2006

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