Five years after NYPD officers shot and killed Sean Bell the night before his wedding, the officers responsible may finally be held accountable.
After celebrating his bachelor party with friends at a Queens, NY strip club, Bell, 23, was murdered in a hail of 50 bullets. At the time, police officers said they feared for their safety, but an investigation found that Bell and his friends were unarmed.
According to police reports, officers investigating prostitution at the bar overheard an altercation between Bell’s friends and another group of men. An undercover officer said he heard one of Bell’s friends say, “Yo, go get my gun,” and police followed them. Although witnesses testified they never heard Detective Gescard Isnora yell for Bell and his friends to halt, Detective Isnora said he commanded the group to stop. When Bell tried to drive away, Detective Isnora opened fire on Bell’s vehicle, and several other officers followed suit.
In 2008, Detective Isnora and two other officers were acquitted in a non-jury, criminal trial, but he–along with Officer Michael Carey and two other officers–is now facing discipline actions from the department. Since the shooting, the officers involved have not been on active duty, but have been collecting paychecks. The discipline trial could lead to them finally being removed from the force.
During the discipline trial, which began on Monday, NYPD attorney Adam Sheldon told an administrative judge that the events of that night were a result of “the outrageous, unimaginable and unjustified actions of Detective Isnora.”
Sheldon also told the judge, Officer Carey “never saw an actual threat coming from the car” that night “because one didn’t exist.”
Detective Isnora’s attorney placed the blame for the tragic outcome on Sean Bell, arguing that he was only shot because he didn’t follow orders and tried to flee the scene.
Philip Karasyk, Isnora’s lawyer said, “Had just put his foot on the brake instead of the accelerator, none of us would be here today.”
At the conclusion of the discipline trial, the administrative judge will make a recommendation to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. It will be up to Kelly to decide whether or not Sean Bell’s killers will remain on the force.