Posted by: vote4claxton | January 20, 2007

SEAN BELL GRAND JURY PRESENTATION

01/19/2007 05:58 PM

Grand Jury Hears Evidence In Sean Bell Shooting

By: NY1 News

Nearly two months after Sean Bell was shot and killed by police outside a club in Queens, a grand jury began hearing testimony today to decide whether to charge the five officers who opened fire on Bell and his friends.

Bell, 23, was killed outside Club Kalua in Jamaica in the early-morning hours of November 25, when undercover police officers fired 50 shots into his car after it struck an unmarked police van. He was to have been married later that day.

Bell’s two friends, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, who were also shot, and the officers involved, will be the last to testify.

The undercover officers were at the Queens nightclub investigating complaints of prostitution, when they say they overheard an argument Bell and his friends got into with someone and became convinced they were going to their car to get a gun.

But the three men were unarmed when the police opened fire. The officers say they identified themselves when they surrounded Bell’s car, but Bell’s surviving friends say that’s not true and that they feared for their lives. They say as far as they knew, they were just trying to get away from some men with guns when the police started shooting. Benefield and Guzman say they will testify to that effect.

One officer and three of the four detectives who fired shots already have been questioned. It’s unclear whether the fourth, Detective Mike Oliver, has been called to questioning. Oliver fired 31 shots the night Bell was killed.

Meanwhile, supporters of Bell and his family, who are holding a 50-day vigil outside the station house near where the shooting happened. Some members of the group are also keeping vigil outside Queens Criminal Court where they say they’ll gather every day to press for the officers to be indicted.

“Unarmed men in a car, 50 shots ö we’re investigating whether a crime was committed? That’s preposterous,” said Neville Mitchell who represents Bell’s parents.

“Had these police officers been civilians, the non-uniformed, they would have been arrested and charged accordingly. It’s curious to us that the district attorney, with all his experience and all of the manpower and all of the resources, finds it difficult to decide whether a crime has been committed,” said Marquez Claxton of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement.

“It could have been me, my brother, my son, my nephew. It’s a clear-cut case of murder. If you shoot at a person 32 times or 31 times you plan to kill them,” said Bell family supporter Ernest Peterson. “I have no training, but it don’t take 31 bullets to kill you.”

“Everyone is just really committed to making sure there is a presence here, as well as in front of the courthouse, because we really believe in justice,” said Bell’s cousin Daitasha Miller.

The Bell family attorney is still calling for a special prosecutor to hear the case.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown insists his office is not showing any favoritism toward the officers and that the grand jury proceedings will be completely transparent.

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