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3 police indicted in N.Y. groom shooting
3 police indicted in N.Y. groom shooting
The officers fired 50 shots that killed man, wounded two others
NEW YORK - A grand jury Friday indicted at least three of the five police officers whose 50-shot barrage killed an unarmed man on his wedding day, lawyers for the officers said.
Attorneys for officers Marc Cooper, Gerscard Isnora and Michael Oliver said their clients had been indicted, but they did not know what offenses the officers had been charged with.
The three officers fired the most shots — Cooper, 4, Isnora, 11, and Oliver, 31 — in the confrontation that killed 23-year-old Sean Bell and wounded two of his friends.
Isnora, 28, was “very upset,” attorney Philip Karasyk said. “But he is confident that once he has his day in court he will be vindicated.”
A person familiar with the case told the AP that the other two officers in the shooting were not charged. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the grand jury's decision has not been made public.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said the charges marked an important first step in the fight for justice in the case.
"Since Nov. 25th, we have battled together. Today is a major step in that battle, whether it will be a step forward, time will tell. But one thing that we can say, if you stay together and you fight, you can do what is necessary to protect children," Sharpton said at a news conference.
Anticipation has been running high around New York City about the grand jury's decision. Extra police officers were put on standby and the mayor met with black leaders in the Queens neighborhood where shooting occurred in hopes of defusing any tensions that might arise from the decision.
A 23-person grand jury heard the case, and 12 grand jurors needed to vote for an indictment for charges to be brought. The panel includes eight blacks, seven whites, and a mix of Hispanics and Asians.
"Whatever the grand jury says ... I think you will see the people of this city behaving in an exemplary manner," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said earlier Friday. "They can be disappointed, they can express themselves — that's freedom of speech, I don't have a problem with that. But nobody is going to go out and make our streets unsafe."
The secret grand jury proceedings took a strange twist when a last-minute witness emerged and testified Thursday before the grand jury that is deciding whether to charge the five officers in the deadly shooting of Bell on his wedding day. Two of his friends were wounded.
The shooting that killed Bell stirred outrage around New York City and led to accusations of racism against the NYPD. Bell was black, as are two of his friends who were wounded in the shooting. Two of the officers are white, and three are black.
Peter St. George Davis, who represents the parents of Bell, said the last-minute witness has no credibility, has been known to investigators from the very beginning, and that investigators actually spoke to him months ago.
"This is not an 11th-hour situation in terms of a mystery witness like you would see on a 'Law and Order' episode," the lawyer said. "This witness was known to the NYPD."
"We believe this grand jury can give us justice," he added. "We would say that justice requires an indictment and prosecution."
While the credibility of the witness is not known, his testimony could aid the officers if he helps convince grand jurors that the officers were justified in opening fire.
Witness said to be working nearby
Detectives' Endowment Association President Michael Palladino said the witness was a 55-year-old man who went to a police station on Wednesday to say he had been working on the night of the shooting near the strip club where it occurred.
The witness told detectives he saw a man fire one or two shots at a police officer and then flee into a nearby building. The man also told detectives that he heard officers identifying themselves as police, said Palladino, who had been briefed on the situation by detectives.
"I don't know where this man came from," Palladino said. "But this guy could have a vital piece of information. ... The man told detectives that he didn't come forward sooner because he was afraid and overwhelmed."
Union representatives and lawyers for the officers have said their clients, who were conducting an undercover investigation at the strip club, became convinced Bell and his friends were going to retrieve a gun from a car parked after overhearing them argue with another patron. No gun was found.
Grand jurors had been instructed to consider several charges: second-degree murder, manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide stemming from Bell's death; and attempted murder, assault or reckless endangerment in the wounding of survivors Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman.
“Governments’ should NOT encourage nor profit from any social vices while passively acknowledging their existence amongst all societies and cultures.” -HWM
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