Sean Bell's Fiancee Criticized Verdict:
The justice system "let me down," Nicole Paultre-Bell said Saturday, a day after a not-guilty verdict for three New York City police officers charged in the killing of her fiance, Sean Bell.
"April 25, 2008, they killed Sean all over again," Paultre-Bell told about 250 supporters at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network headquarters in Harlem, her first public comments since the verdict. She shared the stage with Bell's parents and Joseph Guzman, who was with Bell, 23, at the time of the shooting in November 2006. Paultre-Bell thanked those at the rally for their support. "It's still not over," she said. "Every march, every rally, I'm going to be right up front." Also Saturday, Reps. Gregory W. Meeks and Charles B. Rangel as well as other elected officials called for a federal civil rights review of the case. State Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Cooperman in Queens on Friday acquitted Dets. Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora of manslaughter charges and Det. Marc Cooper of reckless endangerment. The three officers fired a total of 50 bullets.Cooperman said prosecution witnesses, including Bell's friends, contradicted one another so much that their testimony "had the effect of eviscerating" their credibility. The officers testified that they thought there was a gun in Bell's car before he was shot early Nov. 25, 2006, outside a Queens strip club -- just hours before he was to marry. No weapon was found. The shock of Friday's verdict hadn't subsided by Saturday morning. Bell's father, William Bell, asked the crowd at the rally, "Is this 1955 Alabama? Somebody has to answer that for me." Valerie Bell, Sean's mother, told the crowd that she didn't go through labor pains when her son was born because she had a C-section. But on Friday, she said, "that's when the pain started, and it was in my heart." Sharpton continued to rail against Cooperman's verdict, calling the ruling the worst attack on crime victims he'd ever heard of. He announced he would meet Tuesday with leaders of Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union to plan massive civil disobedience and that he would amplify calls for a Department of Justice review. Church, community and union leaders will meet to "plan the day that we who are calling for justice will close this city down," Sharpton said. People in the crowd cheered and chanted, "Shut it down!" The Bell case has been likened to the 1999 police shooting in the Bronx of Amadou Diallo, an African immigrant who was reaching for his cellphone when officers, mistaking it for a gun, fired 41 bullets. A judge acquitted the four officers, prompting widespread and violent protests in the city.
City Reacts to Verdict in the Sean Bell's Case