new york city awarded a seven million dollar settlement in the case of sean bell, the unarmed african-american killed by nypd in a 50-bullet barrage on nov 25, 2006. bell, 23, died around the corner from a queens bar where his bachelor party took place. two of his friends, joseph guzman & trent benefield, were also wounded. undercover police were investigating complaints of prostitution at the club.
bell's death ignited community outrage & inspired social change. the deal awards $3.25 million to the estate of bell, $3 million to guzman & $900,000 to benefield, minus 30% for legal fees. a day after learning of the settlement, during a news conference guzman said, "nobody wins in this case." guzman was shot 17 times & still wears a leg brace.
william bell, sean's father, told the daily news wednesday he's outraged. bell lashed out at michael palladino, a top police union official who called his slain son drunk - suggesting he brought on his own demise. palladino called the settlement "an absolute joke." said bell, "he thinks life is a joke...i don't think life is a joke."
upon learning of the settlement tuesday palladino fumed, "bell was intoxicated and tried to run the cops over." he further lamented the cops were "doing their lawful duty." he also said, "the settlement was excessive and disregards sean bell's actions and culpability."
the bell estate payout will benefit two young daughters he had with nicole paultre bell, the beautiful, poised & resilient fiancee who legally took his name after his death. she called the settlement, "reasonable," but poignantly added, "the girls will never have their father."
at a two-month trial in 2008, detectives marc cooper, gescard isnora & michael oliver said they opened fire on a car carrying bell & his friends because they believed the men were armed & the men defied orders to halt & tried to drive away. no weapons were found.
a judge who heard the case instead of a jury cleared the officers of manslaughter & other charges. he said in a decision prosecution witnesses who testified the officers opened fire without warning lacked credibility. the officers remain on modified duty & face departmental charges which could result in their dismissal.
the bell settlement follows other multi-million dollar payouts in high-profile civil lawsuits involving the nypd. in june the city agreed to pay a record amount for a civil rights lawsuit when it settled for $9.9 million with barry gibbs, an innocent man who spent 19 years in prison - after being framed by a police detective.
in 2001, the city & police union agreed to pay $8.7 million to abner louima, who was beaten & sodomized with a broomstick in a police precinct by officers. after legal fees, louima was left with about $5.8 million. the plaintiffs in the bell case said they would now lobby for pending state legislation calling for a special prosecutor for police shootings, more firearms training & other measures.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.