Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New York to Pay $7 Million in Police Shooting Case

July 27, 2010-- N.Y.

New York to Pay $7 Million in Police Shooting Case


Closing a key chapter in one of the most controversial police shootings in recent memory, New York City agreed on Tuesday to pay more than $7 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the family of Sean Bell, a 23-year-old black man who was fatally shot by the police outside a strip club in Queens on his wedding day in 2006.

The decision by the city came after two days of intense negotiations in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. Mr. Bell’s estate would receive $3.25 million, and two friends of Mr. Bell’s who were injured in the episode would also receive payments: Joseph Guzman would get $3 million, and Trent Benefield $900,000.

The case set off an emotional debate over the use of deadly force by the police and prompted the city to change some of its policing procedures.

On Nov. 25, 2006, five police officers fired 50 shots into the Nissan Altima that Mr. Bell was driving. The car struck a detective in the leg and hit a police van just before the officers began firing.

None of the three men in the car had guns, although the officers apparently believed at least one did.

Three of the officers were acquitted of manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges in State Supreme Court in Queens in 2008. The other two officers who opened fire did not face criminal charges.

In 2007, Mr. Guzman, Mr. Benefield and the family of Mr. Bell filed a lawsuit, which accused the defendants of wrongful death, negligence, assault and civil rights violations. It had been stalled since then as the state and federal governments and city police officials investigated the shooting.

In a statement, Michael A. Cardozo, the city’s corporation counsel, said: “The Sean Bell shooting highlighted the complexities our dedicated officers must face each day. The city regrets the loss of life in this tragic case, and we share our deepest condolences with the Bell family. The city is also settling claims with Mr. Guzman and Mr. Benefield. We hope that all parties can find some measure of closure by this settlement.”

Mr. Bell’s family was still in court as of 6:30 Tuesday night and had not yet commented on the settlement.
Al Baker contributed reporting.

No comments: