A judge acquitted three New York Police Department detectives of all charges Friday morning in the shooting death of an unarmed man in a 50-bullet barrage, hours before he was to be married.
Detectives Michael Oliver, left, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper were accused in the 50-bullet barrage.
Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora were found not guilty of charges of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment in the death of Sean Bell, 23, and the wounding of two of his friends.
Detective Marc Cooper was acquitted of reckless endangerment.
Justice Arthur Cooperman said he found problems with the prosecution’s case. He said some prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves, and he cited prior convictions and incarcerations of witnesses.
He also cited the demeanor of some witnesses on the stand.
As the judge read his decision, Nicole Paultre Bell — Sean Bell’s fiancee before his death — ran from the courtroom, saying, “I’ve got to get out of here.”
The announcement immediately sparked anger among some in the crowd outside the courthouse, but the protests were generally orderly.
One woman shouted at a black police officer, “How can you be proud to wear that uniform? Stand down! Stop working for the masters!”
Patrick Lynch, president of the New York Police Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said “there’s no winners, there’s no losers” in the case.
“We still have a death that occurred. We still have police officers that have to live with the fact that there was a death involved in their case,” Lynch said.
But, he added, the verdict assured police officers that they will be treated fairly in New York’s courts.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been advising Bell’s fiancee and family, left the courthouse about an hour after the verdict without making a public statement. He had called for calm Wednesday.
Bell, 23, was killed just before dawn on his wedding day, November 25, 2006. He and several friends were winding up an all-night bachelor party at the Kalua Club in Queens, a strip club that was under investigation by a NYPD undercover unit looking into complaints of guns, drugs and prostitution.
Undercover detectives were inside the club, and plainclothes officers were stationed outside.
Witnesses said that about 4 a.m., closing time, as Bell and his friends left the club, an argument broke out. Believing that one of Bell’s friends, Joseph Guzman, was going to get a gun from Bell’s car, one of the undercover detectives followed the men and called for backup.
What happened next was at the heart of the trial, prosecuted by the assistant district attorney in Queens.
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