Sunday, April 27, 2008

NY Police Acquittal Like Another Death Says Fiancee

NY police acquittal like another death: fiancee

Sat Apr 26, 2008 3:14pm EDT
By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The fiancee of an unarmed man who died in a hail of 50 bullets said on Saturday that the acquittal of three New York City police detectives charged in his death was like "they killed Sean all over again."

"That's what it felt like to us," said Nicole Paultre Bell in her first public comments about Friday's verdict, in which a state judge cleared two detectives of manslaughter and a third of reckless endangerment in the death of Sean Bell, 23.

The slaying of Bell, who was black, outraged many in New York's black community, who contended that no white suspect would have been shot so many times, if at all.

In a similar case nearly a decade ago, four police officers who fired 41 shots were acquitted in the death of an unarmed West African man, Amadou Diallo.

Bell and two friends were shot after a bachelor party at a strip club in the borough of Queens in November 2006, hours before Bell's wedding. His fiancee legally changed her name in his memory.

She appeared alongside his parents, both wearing T-shirts emblazoned with their son's picture, at a rally at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. Shooting victim Joseph Guzman also spoke.

Saying the system had let her down, Bell said she was still "praying for justice." She and the two shooting survivors have sued the city in a civil case.

Sharpton repeated his call for acts of civil disobedience targeting the Wall Street financial district and the city's police headquarters to protest the verdict, which prompted an angry demonstration when it was announced.

"We strategically know how to stop this city so it will stand still and realize that you do not have the right to shoot down unarmed, innocent civilians with no probable cause," the civil rights activist told the family and their supporters.

An impromptu march followed through the streets of Harlem, with hundreds of protesters chanting and carrying signs variously numbered 1, 43, 44 or 50, a reference to the individual shots fired at Bell.

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

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