As the Queens DA investigates a confrontation between undercover police officers and three unarmed men that led to one of the men's deaths, the story from the officers seems to be that they did identify themselves as police. A lawyer for the detective who opened fire at the men's car spoke to the Daily News. Philip Karasyck said, "This cop screamed, 'Police!' and he had his shield out." The car clipped the officer, and then the officer fired when one of the men, Joseph Guzman, was reaching towards his waistband. Then, four other officers fired an the car, thinking they were under attack, although the men in the car had no weapons. After 50 rounds from the police were unloaded, Sean Bell was killed, while Guzman and Trent Benefield were shot many times.
The NY Times has an article about the police officers involved, five detectives, one officer, and one lieutenant. The cop were first fired has been undercover for most of his career and had never fired his gun before. The detective who shot 31 times, Michael Oliver who appeared on the cover of yesterday's Post, had made over 600 arrests.
Police unions have been upset with Mayor Bloomberg's rush to characterize the shooting as "excessive, and yesterday at a press conference, he slightly calibrated his remarks: "I am a civilian. I'm not a professional law-enforcement officer. That was my personal opinion."
When asked about his reaction to the shooting (we think the question was "What was your visceral reaction?") Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters:
"I can't afford to have a visceral reaction. I'm in charge of a 52,000-person organization. I’m also the final determiner as far as discipline is concerned in any process that goes forward. So I reiterate that I think we need this investigation to go forward as quickly as possible."
NYPD Confidential pointed out that Kelly was holed up with advisers for 16 hours "to get his and the department's story straight" before speaking to the public and questioned if Kelly's spin will be enough.
And the Post reports that the Reverend Al Sharpton allegedly said to Kelly before Monday's press conference, "I've got good news and bad news. The good news is, I still support you being commissioner. The bad news is, most commissioners I support end up getting fired.'
The police have been getting death threats recently. And the police unit investigating the Kalua Lounge, where the incident began, has not closed many establishment but made many arrests; the task force was created after the rape and murder of Jennifer Moore, whose last evening began while clubbing in Chelsea.
Photograph of Commissioner Kelly being questioned yesterday by Kathy Willens/AP