Yesterday, a grand jury decided to indict three detectives in the shooting of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man who had been celebrating the night before his wedding day at a Queens nightclub. The charges were manslaughter for Gescard Isnora and Michael Oliver and reckless endangerment for Marc Cooper. Isnora fired the first shot, one of 11 he eventually fired, while Oliver fired the most, 31 rounds. Cooper fired 4 times; in total, the police shot at Bell and his two friends 50 times. Two other officers, Michael Carey and Paul Headley, were called to testify but were not charged. A Fordham Law professor told Newsday that the grand jury's decision to charge three cops and clear two others "suggested [the grand jury was] careful."

The Queens community seems relieved by the grand jury's decision. Bishop Lester Williams, who was going to officiate Bell's wedding but ended up speaking at his funeral, told the NY Times, "As long as I know that somebody got something, I can live with that." The Reverend Al Sharpton, who spoke on behalf of Bell's family and the two friends who were also injured in the gunfire, said, "Charges are not convictions. And convictions, even then, cannot bring back Sean Bell and cannot repair the damage to Joe and Trent." He added, "There is no joy, no vengeance, no party here. We are not looking for revenge. We are looking for it not to happen again."


Oliver, Isnora, and Cooper will be suspended once they are officially charged. While Carey and Headley were cleared, a police source said it was doubtful that they would get their guns back. Lawyers for Oliver, Isnora and Cooper said they were disappointed but would be prepared for the trial. Detectives' Endowment Association president MIchael Palladino warned people not to consider indictments as a proof of guilty: "The level of proof needed to indict is extremely low. As they say, they can indict a ham sandwich or even a rock."

The Times has a look at the jury's decision and the Daily News looks at what may lie ahead for the defense. The Post has an editorial slamming Sharpton's decision to equate Bell's death with the recent killing of auxiliary police officers in Greenwich Village as well as the penal code's definition of "use of deadly physical force."

The grand jury will officially announce its decision on Monday; the detectives were told to surrender then.

Top photograph of Sharpton by Shiho Fukada/AP; bottom photograph of Palladino of the detectives union by Bebeto Matthews/AP