NYPD Detective who fired 35 shots testifies in Sean Bell case

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Published: March 10, 2007  NY TIMES 

A grand jury in Queens weighing evidence in the fatal police shooting of Sean Bell heard yesterday from the last of the five police officers involved in the case, a detective who fired 31 of the 50 shots at Mr. Bell’s car.

The actions of the detective, Michael Oliver, who emptied his 9-millimeter Sig Sauer pistol, reloaded and emptied it again during the barrage of police gunfire, have been among the focal points of the investigation into the shooting, which took place outside the Club Kalua strip club in Queens on Nov. 25, hours before Mr. Bell was to be married.

In the moments after the shooting, Detective Oliver, 35, told a supervisor at the scene that he was unsure whether he had even fired at all, according to the Police Department’s preliminary report. The detective’s lawyer, James J. Culleton, said yesterday that it could take as little as 10 seconds for an officer using a gun like his client’s to fire 31 shots.

Detective Oliver testified for about two and a half hours before the grand jurors yesterday, Mr. Culleton said. The detective did not respond to reporters’ questions as he left at 2 p.m.

Earlier, as Detective Oliver was escorted to the office building where the grand jury is seated, at 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, the leader of the detectives’ union, Michael J. Palladino, paused at a bank of microphones and defended the detective, who since he joined the department in February 1994 has more than 600 arrests to his credit, including multiple arrests in crimes involving guns.

“This detective has been characterized as a cowboy, and that’s not true and it is unfair,” said Mr. Palladino, who said that Detective Oliver, like his colleagues, was testifying without immunity. “This detective is an impeccable officer, has an unblemished record.”

Detective Oliver’s appearance yesterday signals that the grand jury’s work is winding down. It has heard this week from each of the five officers, in the order of the number of rounds they fired: Detective Paul Headley, 35, who fired one shot, and Officer Michael Carey, 26, who fired three, testified on Monday; Detective Marc Cooper, 39, who fired four shots, and Detective Gescard F. Isnora, 28, who fired 11, testified on Wednesday.

Mr. Culleton, Detective Oliver’s lawyer, said yesterday that the grand jurors had agreed with the officers’ request that they listen to an expert witness in firearms, tactics and training. That witness testified for two and a half hours yesterday afternoon, Mr. Palladino and lawyers said. A decision on whether any of the five officers who opened fire on Mr. Bell’s car will face criminal charges could come as early as next week, according to lawyers involved in the case.

Mr. Bell, 23, and his friends were celebrating at his bachelor party when the shooting occurred. Two of his friends, Trent Benefield, 23, and Joseph Guzman, 31, who were wounded, testified before the grand jury last week.

Sanford A. Rubenstein, one of the lawyers representing Mr. Benefield and Mr. Guzman, as well as Mr. Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, 22, said his clients were awaiting a conclusion. He said that deliberations, once commenced, “might take some time,” since five police officers were involved.

“All the victims have testified before the grand jury, and they want justice,” Mr. Rubenstein said. “What justice means is that if a police officer committed a criminal act, that the police officer be held accountable, criminally.”

Lawyers for the officers have said that the shooting tore at their clients emotionally. Before Nov. 25, none of them had ever fired a round in the line of duty. Mr. Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, has repeatedly said that the officers’ actions were not criminal.

“We ain’t mean to kill nobody, and it is just a dead Nigga, so can we go home now like nothin’ happened, Y’all?  No harm, no foul, right?”

Nothin’ criminal?  Are you freakin’  kidding me? Unarmed Negro, Shot Dead. Unarmed Negroes, shot?  Unarmed Negroes charged with no crimes, but still shot up-Hmm.  Yeah, why don’t y’all just go home. Chill.  Relax.  Take two racial amnesia pills and call us in the morning. 

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27 thoughts on “NYPD Detective who fired 35 shots testifies in Sean Bell case

  1. rikyrah

    I keep on telling you.

    None of them is going to jail.

    They thought they had their usual formula:

    Black men+Late at night+shooting them up…

    We have our old standbys:

    We know we’ll find:
    a) guns
    b) drugs

    This providing us with our excuse.

    But, then the cars came up clean…

    OOOPS

    then, that magical FOURTH PERSON, whose door had to be made of kevlar, which is why they walked away from it..

    appeared.

    I don’t know which creative standby police LIES they’re going to use…

    But, they aren’t going to jail.

  2. I don’t know if they are going to jail or not, but they will be indicted. Tha’t’s not hard based on the facts and how indictments work. But, their use of weapons is not dependant on them finding drugs or weapons, but whether there were police standards about the reasonablness of their belief they were in imminent serious bodily harm. DO’nt quite remember the facts, but didn’t someone run over one of the police with his car?

    We don’t even know who is on the jury yet. I don’t see a cause for concern yet.

  3. your all crazy

    you are all crazy. he wont be indicted nor was it racial. someone tried to run him over he flipped out and shot till he had nothing left. i wanna hear you say you would just stand there. the whole situation is messed up but black people must stop thinking everything is racial.

  4. youngblackman

    Looking at the picture, that black guy to the right is the New Black Panther leader who was in Durham, NC to stir up racial drama about the Duke Lacrosse case.

    I just came back from Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi for spring break. If he really wants to make a difference to blacks, he needs to go down there and fight for the rights of those minorities.

    I was down there to volunteer and I can tell you those blacks are in the worst condition I’ve seen in a long time. Plus, the government is not concerned with the poor.

    It seems these pro-black leaders are ready to march on issues which will garnish a lot of media attention but refuse to do a damn thing when they can truly change lives. These negroes make me sick.

  5. Shawn

    Let’s be real- intentions may not have been bad in this case, but this points to an overwhelming lack of proper training and what not. The officers had to make a spit second decision, but 50 shots totaled to take down 3 men…hmm… i think 5 properly trained officers with a good aim could have done the job in 4 or 5 shots, none which needed to be lethal. a shot to the kneecap will drop anyone- instantly. So what happened? Do they not have the proper training and skills to make a balanced decision at that instant when adrenaline is high and so they just started firing. Think about it. A trained police officer would have taken 1 or 2 shots and disabled someone without killing them. That I am certain of.

  6. Tos Thul

    Race, race, race! Gad, but I’m sick of hearing that word!! It’s overplayed and overused. Too frequently a crutch for losers. It seems that almost everybody who has any type of conflict with a black person is eventually branded a racist. I believe unsubstantiated charges of racism serve to do nothing but create more hate and mistrust. You can’t change someone trying to use race as a battering ram, if they are inclined to do so, but our illustrious mass media doesn’t have to publicize it. The rantings of hatemongers are bolstered by and feed off unwarranted publicity. Offer a fool a forum and he’ll give you foolishness. I don’t think the police were motivated by racism, but rather, a desire to show whose boss. Too many of them seem to be on a power trip.

  7. sandra

    To the comment about the officers were ran over with a car to my understanding the officers were out of uniform and who knows if and when they identified themselves if its late and dark and anyone comes up to me in my car better get out of the way or they will get ran over i cant say what happen cause i wasnt there but 50 shots is too much those men were not target practice

  8. Dan

    If this was a conspiracy, race had nothimg to do with it. The brothers, black (4), and the brothers, blue (3/2), were pitted agressor vs. defender. The real reason(s) may never be known. By the way, why had the soon to be groom and his best freinds pick such a notoriuos place to “celebrate”?

  9. YOU PEOPLE WHO SEEM TO THINK U KNOW HOW POLICE WORK IS, BUT HAVE NEVER BEEN THERE MAKE ME SICK. SURE U MIGHT RISK YOU’RE NECK FOR YOUR OWN FAMILY OR LOVED ONE, BUT HOW ABOUT DOING THE SAME FOR THE GUY WHO CUSSES U OUT EVERY TIME HE SEES U, AND WOULD GLADLY SHOOT AT YOU GIVEN HALF THE CHANCE. THAT IS THE KINDA STUFF THAT WE’RE ASKED TO DO, SOMETIMES ON A DAILY BASIS. AND THEN THERE’S THE ISSUE OF HOW MANY SHOTS WERE FIRED. LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING…WHEN THE @#$% HITS THE FAN YOU DO WHAT U GOTTA DO, AND THAT STUFF HAPPENS SO FAST, YOU SOMETIMES DON’T HAVE TIME TO THINK…..THATS WHEN ALL YOUR TRAINING TAKES OVER, AND YOU ACT ON INSTINCT, FEAR, AND REFLEXES. TELL ME TRUE, IF SOMEONE HIT YOU WITH THEIR CAR AND MADE ACTIONS THAT YOU COULD NOT SEE, THAT COULD HAVE BEEN….YES, COULD HAVE BEEN….CONSTRUED AS SOMEONE GOING FOR A WEAPON, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE. WE’RE COPS FOLKS, WE ARE TAUGHT TO PROTECT OURSELVES AND THE PUBLIC. YOU WANT TO MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK THIS THING, BUT YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. AND FURTHER MORE…ALL YOU IDIOTS THAT THINK EVERYTHING IS RACIST….THAT IS JUST AN EASY COP OUT BECAUSE YOU’RE TOO STUPID TO REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENED, AND THE REAL REASONS IT HAPPENED LIKE THAT. I KNOW THERE IS STILL RACISM IN AMERICA, IT ALWAYS WILL BE, BUT IT IS NOT THE MOTIVE FOR EVERY TIME SOMETHING HAPPENS TO A BLACK PERSON BY SOMEONE OF ANOTHER RACE.

  10. Michael

    The problem with the situation is that these 3 individuals put themselves in a situation that sometimes can turn ugly. If you refrain from fighting, talking about guns and running over police officers you might not end up in a body bag. The average white male doesnt put themselves in situations like this one. Go out, celebrate your marriage and abide by the laws like the majority of people do. Why is it people overlook the circumstances leading up to events? The guy above this comment said it perfect, sometimes it happens so quickly.

  11. Stevie

    Will someone tell Al Sharpton to shut the hell up because A) he is confused and doesn’t even know what is babbling out of his mouth, B) he’s using this incident as a soapbox for his own 15 minutes of fame, C) he’s not helping the situation, and D) he’s stirring up matters that can lead to a race riot and LOTS more people can get hurt or killed.

    also, I keep hearing “racism against black,” blah, blah, blah. All this is for is playing the race card as an excuse for the attempted murder of an undercover officer, degrade law enforcement officials to further tie their backs in cracking down on crime when the suspect is described as a “black male,” (statistically speaking, most crime is committed by black males), and another way for someone to cash in on millions of dollars in a lawsuit settlement because someone died. Oh please- they love someone so much that when they die, that rather than mourn them, they HAVE TO HAVE THE MONEY, “even though money doesn’t replace the person, nor does it bring them back”, as Al Sharpton says.

    And the “trauma, the drama, and all the destroyed lives?” Oh god, Al. Get a life. You must not have watched “The Departed.” The point of that movie was enjoy people while they are still here on this Earth, because if everyone looks at their own hidden agendas, and family or friends die, or become our “dearly departed,” then it is the LIVING person’s life is more hollow than before because now that those people are gone forever.

    Besides, face facts: people live, people die. If you sit around crying over people who are dead, you have now put your life on hold. The dead are no longer lonely, nor are they feeling any pain. They are in a better place and would rather want us to live a long, fruitful, and full life. They’d want you to celebrate their life and want you to live your’s. So stop living in the past and get over it for God’s sake! If not, just go put a bullet in your head.

  12. It is always fascinating to me how whites are conditioned to never question the police regarding their actions when blacks are involved. Y’all never question the police until it is one of your own in their crosshairs. Over-the-top police actions are justified regardless of whether or not the true facts can be discerned. Negroes are dangerous is the subtext I’m feelin’ here and it is, whether you acknowledge it or not, RACIST. If anything you allege is true, why are there no charges being filed against the living victims in this case. Oh, I forgot, THERE WAS NO GUN, NO FOURTH PERSON, AND NO REASON FOR SOMEBODY TO BE DEAD.

  13. mojo

    I haven’t read or heard anyone other than the police, say the driver attempeted to run him over.But i guess he better say something to try and justify why he emptied his gun twice.And i’d like to meet the brave soldier out there who wouldn’t be trying to get away when someone approches your car at 2am in a supposedly bad area in plain clothes proably brandishing a gun saying hey i’m the police.Get real people of course they were targets.I won’t inject racism
    into it i’ll leave that to others but you better believe that cop that reloaded is a rogue cowboy and should be treated as such!

  14. mojo

    And stevie when’s the last time you spoke to someone who has died and gave you that insightfull tidbit of info I trully believe that those who live right and follow GOD’S plan are in a better place but i don’t believe they were rushing to get in the express lane to get there you proably
    would be a little more compassionate if it happened in your circle. And of course money becomes an issue since everything on this earth seems to be judged by how much of it you have.

  15. Jim

    So they were indicted, let’s only hope there’s no jail time because there shouldn’t be. These cops deserve medals, at least they hit the target. Rev. Al, look at you. It’s no wonder why you’re a bitter animal.

  16. Jim,

    Medals? Wow. Perhaps you and the KKK can come up with something spiffy to bestow on these cops for their irresponsible behavior and present it to them with a Klan hood on. I think it will amplify the same message you’re sending here so that even the retarded can understand that Negroes are dangerous and deserve death by cop whether guilty or innocent. 🙂

  17. sid,

    Yeah, because everybody knows racism doesn’t exist, Native Americans simply died off, and blacks were some really bonified happy darkies during slavery overjoyed by forced labor and rape. Good point. 🙂

  18. sid

    more blacks are killed by blacks then any other race. and since 3 cops were black, how’s that racist? We know what happened in the past, but i had nothing to do with what ignorant people did in the past. if you want racism to go away, STOP TALKING ABOUT IT!

  19. gman

    This not about racism this is about power we as men ,black,white, latino or what ever you are
    need to stop acting and trying to be gangstas. That includes the police who think they can shoot the shit out of somebody having a good time on there wedding day.Our soceity has let technology and evil create hell on earth for some of us.Our kids are getting lazy and brain washed by video games and we aren’t respecting our neighbors anymore all we want is the money and the power, the end result is pain,poverty,greed,anger and so on.To many people think its ok to act like thugs and gangstas all day everyday just ask Mr. bush not only is he
    not taking care of us (Gas prices,Homes for sale at ridiculous prices,healthcare expensive,schools closing down ,tution up at colleges) he heilped screw up a hole country(Iraq) and still got our kids over there being slaughtered and sadaams ass has been dead for months. So this is all about Power theres not
    a damm thing good about It!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. sandra

    We can’t deny that cops have a problem when they put on that badge and gun its a whole different person that has no respect I know where i live the cops are horrible they treat women and children like crap and not to metion the men I can’t say its about white or black its more about power and yeah you say everything happens so fast but how fast is it when you reload there is your chance to slow down it do not take 50 shots to kill one man all cops are not that way but you have a lot that makes them all look bad. everyone one has something to say and that’s just life the cops did the crime now do the time since when is it ok to kill someone because they were at a bar drinking and fighting if thats the case far as being hit with the car who the hell is going to raise down their window at 2am in the morning to out of uniform cops if you say you will you are either stupid or lying i would of ran his ass over!!!!!

  21. Anonymous Swine

    It is always fascinating to me how whites are conditioned to never question the police regarding their actions when blacks are involved.

    It is fascinating watching someone like you who seems completely obsessed and engulfed with this idea that everything is about race. Give it up already. You think “whites” (as if all people of a given race can be classed into one group that thinks and acts the same way — then again, a racist like you would think so) don’t question the police? I hear the Manhattan Bridge is for sale if you want it. Seriously, guy, open your eyes. Gary Gidone Busch, a mentally deranged white Jewish kid, was shot and killed by NYC police. That caused a major uproar when it happened. Have you *ever* watched one of the hundred reruns of COPS all over cable these days? Those white trash trailer parks are no different than a typical NYC ghetto in terms of people’s behavior. They wail and cry and scream about the police doing this and that and blah blah as well. Same nonsense, different place, different people/races.

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