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On what would have been his wedding day, Sean Bell's friends and family, as well as other activists, politicians, and members of the community, held a vigil/protest/rally for Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. Bell was killed during a confrontation with the police after his bachelor party at the Queens strip club Kalua Lounge on Saturday morning. Guzman and Benefield were injured and remain in the hospital. The police fired 50 shots in less than a half minute on the friends' car; the three men were unarmed. An undercurrent of the shooting is race: The three men were black and Hispanic, while there were two white, two black and one Hispanic police officers.

2006_11_clubkalua.jpgThe night's events are still being investigated, as the five undercover police officers who were involved have been reassigned to administrative duty. As comparisons are being made to the Amadou Diallo shooting, the NYPD has emphasized the the five officers were not involved with that incident (or other excessive gunfire incidents either). The NY Times speaks to experts who suggest that "contagious shooting" could have led to the volume of bullets aimed at the group.

The whole thing most likely took less than a minute. The officer who fired 31 times could have done so in fewer than 20 seconds, with the act of reloading taking less than one second, [former NYPD firearms instructor John C.] Cerar said. The 49 shots that followed the undercover detective’s first may have been contagious shooting, said one former police official who insisted on anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

“He shoots, and you shoot, and the assumption is he has a good reason for shooting. You saw it in Diallo. You see it in a lot of shootings,” the official said. “You just chime in. I don’t mean the term loosely. But you see your partner, and your reflexes take over.”

The Daily News reports that the officer who fired 31 times had never fired his gun before in his 12 year career.

The Post has this account of what supposedly happened:

Dramatic new details of the deadly mayhem include the undercover cop at one point climbing onto the hood of Bell's car - his gun drawn and his police shield around his neck - screaming, "Police! Turn off your car! Let me see your hands!" said sources who talked to some of the cops involved in the shooting.

When Bell then tried to run down the plainclothes officer - twice - the cop began shooting, with some of his 11 bullets piercing the rear window of the man's Nissan Altima, the sources said.

This left the cop's backup unit - which was just arriving on the scene amid shattering glass and the undercover's shouts of "He's got a gun!" - thinking they were being fired upon from inside the vehicle. That's when they returned fire with another 39 bullets. One 12-year veteran, a narcotics detective, pumped 31 bullets, authorities said.

Guzman was allegedly overheard saying he was going to get his gun. However, witnesses say the police never identified themselves.

2006_11_shootvigil2.jpgBell's grieving fiancee and the mother of his two children, Nicole Paultrie, walked alongside the Reverend Al Sharpton yesterday. When local politicians like State Senator Malcolm Smith and City Councilman Thomas White Jr. asked for calm and patience during the investigation, the crowd booed them and said they were angry.

The head of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Noel Leader says that Police Commissioner Kelly has not been receptive to his group's attempts to reach out and blames Kelly of "turning a blind eye" to "police brutality in black communities." Though Kelly has not characterized the shooting as being justified yet, the president of the NYC's Detective's Endowment Associations Michael Palladino said, "Deadly force was being used against our detectives in the form of a motor vehicle.”

But according to NYPD rules, the officers may have been wrong to fire at a vehicle; a Times article states "...Saturday’s shootings may have violated department rules, which largely prohibit officers from firing at vehicles... officers can fire only when they or another person is threatened by deadly physical force, but not if that physical force comes from a moving vehicle alone. And then it's unclear whether the undercover cops had been drinking while at the Kalua Lounge for the narcotics and vice sting.

One thing that most people agree about is that Mayor Bloomberg has been much more open in communicating with the black community over the shooting, especially when compared to Mayor Giuliani's handling of the Diallo shooting. (Although it could be argued that it'd be hard for Bloomberg to do worse than Giuliani, as Rudy's actions mark the a nadir of NYPD-community relations.) Bloomberg was in Bermuda for the holidays, but he did call Bell's family to express his condolences, spoke to Sharpton and made sure Deputy Mayor Derek Walcott was present at the vigil. Upon his return to work today, Bloomberg and Kelly are meeting with the black community this morning; Sharpton told the Sun, "This is going to be a watershed case."

And the mother of Amadou Diallo was screening a documentary of her son's death in Manhattan when she heard about the shooting. The Daily News reports that Kadiatou Diallo will lend her support to Sharpton; she also said, "The NYPD also needs to be reminded that we thank them for the wonderful job they are doing, but they have to help us. This is why we need to raise awareness, until people at large in all communities will have good policing without killing people."

Photographs of people participating in vigil/protest and of Reverend Al Sharpton and Nicole Paultrie by Adam Rountree/AP; photograph of the Kalua Lounge by Tien Mao