Last night, hundreds of people marched from the Queens courthouse to the Kalua Lounge, the strip club where Sean Bell was killed on his wedding day, yelling, "Fifty shots equal murder," to protest yesterday's not guilty verdict for three police officers charged in the shooting.
Bell's mother, Valerie, fainted when Judge Arthur Cooperman delivered the verdict, amid tears from Bell's fiance Nicole Paultre Bell and angry words from supporters (outside the courthouse, they yelled "Murderers!" and "KKK!"). His father, William Bell, said, "The judge spit in my damn face, but I knew it was coming," and told WABC 7, "It's a slap in the face and a kick in the ass."
The three detectives--who spoke publicly for the first time after the verdict--are now relegated to desk jobs without their guns as the NYPD will examine their actions--and any case from the U.S. Attorney's office would probably precede that. Many legal experts think their decision to opt for a bench trial, versus a jury trial, helped them--as did the issues with the prosecutions' witnesses' testimonies.
The city's three big papers weighed in with editorials: The Daily News accepts the verdict as "a fair exercise in the law" but feels that Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora, and Marc Cooper and their supervisors should be dismissed from the NYPD. The Post thinks it was the "right verdict," especially given the evidence. And the NY Times found the verdict "stunning in its thorough absolution of the officers" and suggests "carelessness and incompetence in the behavior of the police officers...must be corrected as a matter of public policy."
The Reverend Al Sharpton promised to engage in "nonviolent civil disobedience," and said, "They expect us to react in traditional ways; they will not get that. We are going to engage in economic withdrawal. We are going to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience." Sharpton, though, also encouraged people to protest and get arrested, "whether it is on Wall Street, the judge’s house or at 1 Police Plaza.”
But Sharpton also pointed out, “People with records do not lose their right to not be shot by police," and feels a federal case should proceed. Detectives Endowment Association head Michael Palladino still criticized Bell's friends who were wounded in the shooting and testified in the trial and said, "We have been portrayed as insensitive murderers. And I can tell you that we are not.”
Bell's fiancee and the mother of his two children, Nicole Paultre Bell, had fled the courtroom in tears after the verdict. She later said, "April 25, 2008: They killed Sean all over again," and added, "I’m still praying for justice."