Juan Gonzalez: “NYPD breaking down doors in Black Community”

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Sean Bell, his fiancee Nicole Paultre, and their daughter

 From Amy Goodman’s radio program Democracy Now:

NY DAILY NEWS Reporter Juan Gonzalez details the harassment of NYPD shooting victim Sean Bell’s friends.

Yes, Amy. Well, I was writing about this dragnet now that the police are conducting in Queens. And actually it was Wednesday morning that they arrested four people in an early 6:00 a.m. raid. They broke down a door of an apartment in Queens and put guns in people’s faces, including a woman, LaToya Smith, who was with her seven-month-old son in bed. And they rousted her out of bed with guns in her face, and they herded all the family members. Eventually, they claim that this was a drug location and that they found a loaded gun in the apartment and took LaToya Smith, two of her brothers and another young man to jail, although they eventually released her. But interestingly, they didn’t conduct the raid for guns or drugs. The young people all said that the main questions had to do with the shooting in Queens, because these are all friends of the victims. And they kept asking them information about who they knew who had been at a bachelor party, what they knew about these young men.

The next morning they came back again to the same building — this was Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. — and arrested two more young men, including one was arrested for an overdue $25 fine on a ticket from last year, and he was hauled off to jail on that. And again, he was a friend of Trent Benefield, who had been at the hospital several times during the week, one of the wounded men. And he was again asked about what was his conversations with Trent Benefield, what did he know about other people in the neighborhood.

And basically, what’s been happening now — we know of at least six people, then, who have been hauled in, and possibly more. And the police — the folks in this community are now saying that the police are now turning the victims now into suspects, as well as their friends, in an effort to find what they say is a fourth man who they believe was near the car when the shooting occurred and who may have important information that would corroborate the police account. But they have, late last night, arrested one man, Jean [Nelson], who they claim may be the person, this fourth person, mystery person, that they’re looking for. But it’s not clear yet.

But the lawyers of the men have said that there is no fourth person, that there were only three people in the car when the shooting occurred and that obviously no one in the car had a gun, because that, the police confirmed that. So it’s really been a bizarre twist now that the community that has already suffered the loss of one young man and the severe wounding of two others is now being subjected to police raids.”