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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 70/No. 47December 11, 2006

Killing by cops in N.Y. sparks outrage
Worker gunned down in hail of 50 bullets;
citywide protest called for December 6
(lead article)
Militant/Olga Rodrguez
Students walk out of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn November 29 to protest police killing of Sean Bell. Two other young Black men, shot along with Bell, remain hospitalized.

JAMAICA, New York—Some 300 demonstrators marched and rallied in this largely Black community here November 26 to protest a deadly police shooting in this neighborhood the day before. The incident, in which five cops fired a hail of 50 bullets that left one young Black man dead and two seriously wounded, has sparked widespread outrage among working people. City officials and capitalist politicians have been working overtime to defuse the anger.

Sean Bell, 23, and two of his friends, Joseph Guzman, 31, and Trent Benefield, 23, had been celebrating at Bell’s bachelor party November 25 at a nightclub in Jamaica. They had left the club in a car when five plainclothes cops opened fire, killing Bell. Guzman was shot 11 times and Benefield 3 times.

The two wounded men were taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica. They were handcuffed to their beds, and were unshackled only in response to the demonstration outside the hospital, the Associated Press reported.

The three men had left the club, Kalua Cabaret, around 4:00 a.m., and were followed by undercover cops. According to the police account, there was an altercation outside and an undercover agent heard one man refer to a gun. The cop then confronted the men in Bell’s Nissan Altima, and they supposedly tried to run him over and ram the police car, prompting the fusillade by the agent and his backups.

The only guns found on the scene, however, were those of the cops. And witnesses have contradicted the police account.

According to the November 27 New York Daily News, Trini Wright, a dancer at the club, “insisted the cops opened fire without identifying themselves.” The cops’ unmarked minivan “came around the corner and smashed into their [Bell’s] car. And they [the cops] jumped out shooting,” she told the paper. “No ‘stop.’ No ‘freeze.’ No nothing,” she said.

The Daily News reported, “Friends of Bell, Benefield and Guzman told cops the trio mistook the plainclothes officers conducting surveillance at the club for robbers and tried to get away.” Another witness, China Flores, said the undercover cop identified himself only after he fired, the paper said.

The cops fired at least 50 rounds at the men. One cop fired 31 times, emptying two full magazines. Bullets struck other cars and a nearby apartment window.

The next day Bell, who had worked as a milk delivery driver, was to have wed Nicole Paultre, 22, the mother of his two young daughters.

“Fifty shots, and no one is shooting back at you? That’s an execution. It’s like putting them in front of a firing line,” said Bishop Lester Williams, who was supposed to preside at the couple’s wedding.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly responded to the deadly attack saying, “We’re not in a position to characterize the shooting at this time.” The five cops involved were placed on administrative duty.

Queens district attorney Richard Brown promised “a full and fair investigation,” but added that the grand jury inquiry would probably go on for several weeks.

Seeking to defuse the popular outrage, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a highly publicized meeting at City Hall with Black political and religious figures November 28. He acknowledged that “a lot of people feel that this on top of other incidents that have happened in the past is a pattern,” and declared the incident “unacceptable” and “excessive.”

Bloomberg added that he considered it an isolated incident and not “anything racially motivated here.”

Among those who met with the mayor were Democratic politician Al Sharpton, City Councilman Charles Barron, and Rev. Herbert Daughtry.

At the November 26 protest march, some politicians called for police commissioner Kelly’s resignation and others proposed firing the five cops. Malcolm Smith, a Democratic state senator from Queens, urged calm, saying an “impartial” investigation was under way, but was drowned out by a chorus of shouts and boos.

When Councilman Thomas White Jr. said, “We are not going to be angry,” the crowd roared back: “Oh, yes we are!”

One demonstrator held a sign that read, “41 now 50,” recalling the 1999 police shooting of Amadou Diallo in a hail of 41 bullets. The four cops involved were acquitted.

Noting that those four cops were all white and those involved in the latest shooting included three Black cops, Tee Jones, a resident of Jamaica, said in an interview, “A cop is a cop. It shows the mentality of a New York cop and that they are going to continue to do it.” At the march Donovan Brown told the Militant, “The police are murderers and we need to stop it now. That’s how they treat Black people.” Another protest rally has been called for December 6 at One Police Plaza in Manhattan.

Andrea Morell and Róger Calero contributed to this article.
Related articles:
Jail the cops who killed Sean Bell!

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