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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cops in Bell Shooting Get Canned

Police involved in Sean Bell shooting get canned
The New York Daily News by John Doyle and Janon Fisher - March 24, 2012
The officers shot Bell and two friends outside a Queens strip club. The cops said they thought Bell and his friends had a gun, but they were unarmed.

The cops that gunned down Sean Bell, the Queens man killed on his wedding day in a 50-shot fusillade, will be drummed out of the department, the NYPD said Friday. Detective Gescard Isnora, who fired the shot that touched off the senseless 2006 killing, was found to have violated department guidelines by shooting his weapon while undercover. He will be fired and will not get a pension or health benefits. Three other officers involved, Detective Michael Oliver, Detective Marc Cooper and Lt. Gary Napoli cut plea deals with the department that allowed them to keep all or part of their pensions if they resign from the department. They are expected to hand their paperwork over to the pension board on Monday, police sources said. “It really don’t matter,” said William Bell, the slain groom’s father. “They still have lives. Pension or no pension, they’re still walking around, they’ll get another job. My son doesn’t have a chance to start over again.” On the night of the shooting, Bell and two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, were celebrating the final hours of his bachelorhood at Club Kalua, a strip bar in Jamaica. As the three left the club and were heading to their car, Guzman got into an argument with a man outside the bar. The cops, part of a task force that specialized in vice collars, saw the argument and believed Guzman was going to his car to get a gun. As they moved in on the group, Bell, who toxicology reports show was legally drunk, tried to flee in the car with his buddies. His car smashed into a police van, injuring one cop. That’s when Isnora fired the first of 11 shots. Oliver fired 31 of the 50 shots. Cooper shot four times. The groom and his buddies were unarmed. The cops were found not guilty at a criminal trial in 2008, but at a subsequent civil trial the city settled for $7.15 million. Officer Michael Carey, who fired three shots, was also found not guilty in a departmental trial. Detective Paul Headley, who fired once, received a departmental reprimand. After a lengthy probe, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice decided not to file charges. The shooting set of a firestorm of protests in the community, which blamed racial bias and police brutality. Even Mayor Bloomberg weighed in calling it “excessive force.” The president of the Detectives Endowment Association condemned the firings. “The decision was disgraceful, excessive and unprecedented,” said the union president Michael Palladino. “Stripping a cop of his livelihood and his retirement is usually reserved for cops who turn to a life of crime and disgrace the shield, not for someone whose actions were justified by both a court of law and by the U.S. Department of Justice.”

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