Police Kill Far Rockaway Man After Jamaica Bachelor Party
Nearly a week after undercover police officers investigating a Jamaica strip club killed a Far Rockaway man and wounded two others, the controversy over his killing continues to reverberate throughout Rockaway and the rest of the city.
Many details of the incident remain in dispute, and several investigations sparked by the November 25 shooting of Sean Bell, 23, who lived with his fiancée and their two daughters at 91 Beach 27 Street, continued at press time, notably separate investigations by the New York City Police Department and Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
Bell and two of his friends, Joseph Guzman, 21 and Trent Benefield, 23, went to the Club Kalua in Jamaica for Bell's bachelor party as he was to be married on the day he died.
The police say that Bell and his two friends left the club, got into Bell's car and drove about a half a block and turned a corner, where their car struck an unmarked police minivan bearing several undercover officers at the intersection of 94 Avenue and Liverpool Street.
Bell was reportedly being followed by an undercover officer who was in the club and who later told police officials that he heard one of the men in the Bell's group say something about getting a gun.
Bell's car reportedly struck the minivan with the undercover officers inside and then backed up, striking the pursuing officer, who was on foot. The car then reversed and hit the van again, according to police reports.
It is unclear from early reports whether somebody yelled "gun" or if the officers identified themselves as police before the officers opened fire, but one of the officers began firing at the car. Within seconds, approximately 50 shots were fired into the car by police officers.
Bell was shot in the neck, shoulder and right arm. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital Center where he was declared dead on arrival.
Guzman and Benefield were wounded and were taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. Both were recovering from their wounds at press time.
Police didn't recover a weapon at the scene, but some eyewitnesses have reported that a fourth man jumped from the car and fled the scene while the shooting was going on. Reports on Thursday said the NYPD had identified a suspect and was trying to locate that individual.
The incident has sparked demonstrations and demands from politicians and activists such as the Reverend Al Sharpton that an independent investigation be conducted, and some have asked that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelley step down.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has expressed complete confidence in Kelly and the ongoing investigations.
Local politicians such as City Councilman James Sanders and State Senator Malcolm Smith have appeared at several press conferences, one of which was held in Far Rockaway. Lara Paultre, the mother of Bell's fiancée, remembered Bell as a man who "hated violence." She said Bell "was loved as a son and as a father." Numerous news conferences were held in Jamaica and City Hall this week.
At first, Bloomberg said that he found the number of shots that hit the car "excessive," but he later backtracked, stating that he was not an expert, and that it is still too early to draw conclusions from the shooting.
"We know that the NYPD officers on the scene had reason to believe an altercation involving a firearm was about to happen and were trying to stop it," the mayor told reporters on Monday. District Attorney Brown said late this week that he would empanel a grand jury to investigate the shooting.
Undercover NYPD officers shot and killed Sean Bell of Far Rockaway and wounded two of his friends outside of a strip club in Jamaica, Queens early last Saturday morning. Later that day, City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (right) State Senator Malcolm Smith (not shown), and Lara and Les Paultre, the parents of Bell's fiancé, Nicole Paultre, held a press conference outside the Beach 27 Street residence where Bell lived with his fiancé, who he was supposed to wed that day, and their two young daughters. Flanked by supporters, Lara Paultre (second from left) and Les Paultre (third from right), held up photographs of Bell for reporters. One of the photos shows Bell with Nicole Paultre and their children, and the other shows the couple dressed for the prom. The Queens District Attorney and NYPD continued separate investigations into the shooting, which has come under intense scrutiny and has sparked outrage, as The Wave went to press. See page 22 for a recap of this week's developments in the story. Photo by Miriam Rosenberg