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Thread: Police Kill Man After a Queens Bachelor Party

  1. #16
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Police Statements Vary on Firing at a Vehicle

    nytimes.com
    By AL BAKER
    November 30, 2006

    In the days after the groom-to-be Sean Bell died in a 50-shot fusillade fired at his car by five police officers, city officials have gone into detail about the Police Department’s guidelines for shooting at a moving vehicle.

    The rules, in the department’s Patrol Guide, are clear: “Police officers shall not discharge their firearms at or from a moving vehicle unless deadly physical force is being used against the police officer or another person present, by means other than a moving vehicle.”

    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, by citing the guidelines, raised the possibility that the five officers who shot at Mr. Bell might have been in violation of the department’s internal rule.

    “You should know that it is not the policy of the Police Department, where a police officer can shoot at a car when the car is being used as a weapon,” Mr. Bloomberg said Monday at a City Hall news conference. “So at least, in that case, it would appear that the policies of the Police Department were broken.”

    Mr. Kelly said, “As far as the policy of using deadly force against a vehicle — we have a policy that prohibits that if the only deadly force that’s being used against you is the vehicle itself.”

    But in a series of other recent confrontations in which police officers shot at drivers trying to run them down, police officials voiced unambiguous support for the officers involved. In two police shootings since last month — one in which an officer fatally shot a driver — the police said the shootings appeared reasonable, at least after preliminary investigations.

    On Nov. 11, when a driver in Brooklyn was killed by the police, the officers saw him pointing a gun. In the other, in the Bronx, on Oct. 27, a loaded 9-millimeter gun was found in the driver’s waistband and a second gun was in the car, according to the police.

    In Saturday’s case, at least one police officer appeared to have believed the men in the car had a gun, but no gun was found.

    The three police shootings — and the official statements about them — underscore the nettlesome aspects of trying to set rules for unforeseeable, potentially deadly situations that unfold in seconds. To some, including many retired officers, the guidelines are confusing, even contradictory, particularly since an overarching statement in the Patrol Guide states that the primary function of all officers is “to preserve human life.”

    Andrew Quinn, a lawyer who is general counsel to the Sergeants Benevolent Association, observed that the policy is more restrictive than the state’s penal code. And a veteran prosecutor who has investigated previous police shootings suggested that the hard-and-fast rule is contrary to common sense.

    “The Patrol Guide definitely states that, and it’s hard to believe that it says it, that you can’t use deadly force against a vehicle,” said the prosecutor, who refused to be named.

    “Every cop you say that to says, ‘Oh, come on,’ ” the prosecutor said. “It seems at best to be selectively enforced.”

    Still, some defended the policy as written. John C. Cerar, a retired commander of the Police Department’s firearms training section, said, “Guidelines are guidelines, and they can be violated without breaking the rules.”

    When asked about the policy, Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said, “What we look at is the totality of the situation.”

    He added: “We don’t know the totality of this event yet.” But of the two previous shootings, Mr. Browne said, “There was more than the threat of the automobile alone involved.”

    Indeed, in the Oct. 27 shooting, Mr. Quinn said that Sgt. Edward Warren was not shooting at a car, but “at a driver who was armed and who was about to shoot a cop.”

    “It is idiotic,” he said of the policy. “There are absolutely circumstances where a car can be used as a deadly weapon, and the only way a cop can save his life or the life of a fellow officer or the life of a civilian is to use his handgun.”

    Mr. Kelly has been careful not to characterize the conduct of the five police officers involved in the shooting of Mr. Bell. None of those officers have been interviewed by officials.

    Talk of a gun, however, has colored the early reports of what happened.

    In a confrontation before the shooting outside a Queens strip club, Joseph Guzman, an acquaintance of Mr. Bell’s, shouted, “Yo, get my gun,” the police said. Later, according to the account of a police lieutenant at the scene, a detective working undercover who was shadowing Mr. Bell and his acquaintances called the lieutenant just before the shooting to say the situation was getting “hot,” and, “I think there’s a gun.”

    Cara Buckley and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  2. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1, NYTimes View Post

    The rules, in the department’s Patrol Guide, are clear: “Police officers shall not discharge their firearms at or from a moving vehicle unless deadly physical force is being used against the police officer or another person present, by means other than a moving vehicle.”
    I'm not clear from the article whether this is a guideline or a rule. It seems to fluctuate back and forth. Regardless of whether or not they find a fourth man with a firearm, I would say that the guideline/rule has clearly been violated, given current evidence. I haven't seen a report anywhere that has stated that they saw a firearm at any time, just that they suspected one of the four might have one.

    Having said that, I'd like to see it called how it is on the news. We are talking about a group of men threatening to beat down and shoot another man at a club that has been previously shut down for drug and prostitution violations well on its way to being shut down again. (BTW- was this incident enough to get it shut down again, and seeing how the police may have precipitated it, is that really fair?) Now these facts really have no bearing on the events culminating on the unmarried father's death, but I dislike the sugar coated stories I see on the television referring to a promising young man on his wedding day.

  3. #18
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    I think everything that was done was perfectly reasonable and explainable.

    But it was also not allowable.

    I can see how a cop that is pissed off at a student yelling at him and being a PITA will taser him repeatedly, but that does not validate his actions.

    Were there no dash cams on these vehicles? Did they get no actual footage? Radio records? anything? Did these guys really try to run down the cops, or were they just trying to get away from a guy in a dark road at 3AM that just pulled a gun on them?

    Who knows. Many people screwed up on this, and one ended up dead.

    BTW, was the cop that was "run down" actually hurt in any of this? I have not heard anything about this aside from the car hitting the UC car and hitting the storefront...

  4. #19

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    Lots of good questions there. I wonder what happened to the cop that alledgedly got hit? You are right, I never even heard that he needed medical attention. Odd that.

    The other thing I wonder about is that the driver was killed, hit with three bullets. Seems that once the driver was dead, the threat of the car (which they apparantly not allowed to shoot at anyhow) was over. Whatfor, then, the rest of the bullets? I saw a piece about "contagious" gunfire. An explanation, but not an excuse. Sounds like there is a need of some real reform as to the application of deadly force within the department regardless of the outcome of this incident. There is no way that many bullets should have been pumped into there, especially with the one guy reloading in the middle.

  5. #20

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    According to the Commisioner's press release, the cop was treated for an abrasion to his shin and released. But describing a tense sutuation, a back-up detective remained hospitalized for hypertension.

    As part of his cover, the cop who began shooting was in a bar environment for several hours. It wasn't stated whether he had any alcoholic drinks during that time.

  6. #21
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Whether or not it is determined that the vehicle that "hit" the first U/C was being used as a "deadly weapon" will hinge on a number of facts -- primarily the speed at which it was traveling.

    And I still don't understand why no action was taken at 3 AM when the first mention of a gun INSIDE the Club Kalua was noted by the U/Cs. It seems at that point there was clear evidence of the specific type of violations for which the U/Cs were sent to Club Kalua in the first place.

    The entire mission seems murky. As Ninja points out: no cams, no tapes -- and yet the U/Cs were supposedly on a surveillance mission.

    Strange ...

  7. #22
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daver View Post

    The other thing I wonder about is that the driver was killed, hit with three bullets.
    And from what I read this morning: the driver, groom-to-be Sean Bell, was the first shot with the bullet entering his neck.

    This could explain some of the "threatening" movements of the car, since the driver was hit by bullets while the vehicle was in motion ...

  8. #23
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Raids in slaying stir fresh anger

    Cops hunt for fourth man

    nydailynew.com
    This story was reported by ALISON GENDAR, NICOLE BODE, MIKE JACCARINO, PETER KADUSHIN, JOHN LAUINGER, ROBERT F. MOORE, SCOTT SHIFREL, RICH SCHAPIRO and OREN YANIV.
    It was written by CORKY SIEMASZKO.

    December 1, 2006

    NYPD raids aimed at flushing an "important" witness to the 50-shot police barrage that killed Sean Bell on his wedding day ratcheted up tensions yesterday in Queens, where angry residents accused cops of blaming the victims. The dragnet did not find the mysterious "fourth man" who cops believe fled the tragic shooting - although detectives were still questioning at least one person early today.

    Cops arrested at least six people, several on gun charges unrelated to the shooting. But police failed to find the gun that cops say they believe the mystery man ran off with when undercover and plainclothes cops opened fire early Saturday.

    Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly defended the raids - as sources said at least four witnesses have told investigators they saw a man in a tan jacket standing near Bell's car just before the shooting erupted.

    "The existence of a fourth person is important to this investigation," Kelly said.

    But Sanford Rubenstein, attorney for the two men wounded in the shooting - Trent Benefield, 23, and Joseph Guzman, 31 - said, "The concept of a fourth man is a myth, created by whoever for whatever spin."

    Cops using information gleaned from the raids zeroed in on Jean Nelson, who some investigators believed could be the fourth man, sources said.

    Nelson - a 27-year-old known on the street as M.O. - was one of several men who gathered for Bell's bachelor party at the Kalua Cabaret strip club in Jamaica before the fatal police shooting.

    Cops picked up Nelson early yesterday, then kicked him loose without charging him - leading a high-ranking law enforcement source to say he was not the mystery man.

    But detectives grabbed Nelson again about 8:25 p.m. after he stepped out of his Sutphin Blvd. building and hustled him off in a police car, his dad said.

    "Cops are hassling everyone in the complex. They're messing with poor people," said Nelson's dad, who declined to give his name. "They are trying to frame people."

    Four hours earlier, cops raided a Bronx apartment and took away Eric Kellam, 29, his sister said. Cops told the 23-year-old woman the raid was "in connection to the Sean Bell shooting" and revealed they were looking for a man named Nelson, showing her a photo, she said.

    The aggressive tactics infuriated black residents in Jamaica, who are seething over the fatal police shooting of yet another unarmed black man.

    "I think what they are doing is repulsive, disgusting and deplorable," said Bishop Erskine Williams Sr., whose son was among those nabbed Wednesday and yesterday during the raids.

    "They are trying to put together something to cover up an assassination and an execution of this young boy," said Williams, who has been acting as a spokesman for Benefield and Guzman.

    Cops conducted the first raid at 6 a.m. Wednesday at the Baisley Park Houses in Jamaica, taking four people into custody. A loaded 9-mm. handgun and a small amount of marijuana were recovered in an apartment, which sources called a known drug-dealing location.

    Three men in the home were charged with criminal possession of a weapon - the 9-mm. handgun, which police said had no link to Saturday's shooting.

    One of those rousted, LaToya Smith, 26, who was not charged, said cops didn't ask her anything about the gun. She said they questioned her about Bell's pals and told her, "If you don't tell us what we want to hear, you know, you can get five years."

    A second raid at Baisley yesterday resulted in the arrest of Williams' son, Erskine Jr., 26, for failing to pay a $25 fine for trespassing last year. His friend Jameek Benston was also taken into custody.

    "They wanted to know what I was talking to Trent about," said the younger Williams, who had spent two nights sitting by Benefield's bed at Mary Immaculate Hospital. "They told me I knew who the fourth guy was."

    Williams Jr. said that when he denied knowing who the fourth man was, they accused him of selling drugs and asked if he knew local thugs.

    Bell, Benefield and Guzman were shot on Liverpool St. after an undercover cop followed them out of the Kalua Cabaret, where a police task force was investigating prostitution.

    Believing Guzman had a gun, the undercover followed the men to Bell's car and fired the opening salvo after Bell, 23, clipped him with the vehicle.

    Michael Hardy, a lawyer who represents Guzman and Benefield, said the wounded men told him unequivocally that there was no fourth man and cops never identified themselves before shooting.

    "They were not aware the person who began shooting at their vehicle was a police officer," Hardy told New York 1 last night, adding the victims thought they were being "carjacked."

    Hardy quoted Guzman as saying Bell turned to him in the front seat and uttered his last words - "I love you, son." The undercover cop and police union officials say the cops fired after Bell hit the undercover and Guzman reached for a gun. No gun has been found.

    The officers - two black, two white and one dark-skinned Hispanic - have been placed on paid leave and told to give up their guns.

    Charles King, a lawyer representing at least three of the men who witnessed the shooting, said they were willing to testify before a grand jury probing the incident.

    "These witnesses said the undercover never identified himself. Never," King said. "Police say they are searching for a fourth man? There was no fourth person in the car."

    All contents © 2006 Daily News, L.P.

  9. #24
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    After a Shooting, a Rapper Stages a Protest in Rhyme

    nytimes.com
    By KELEFA SANNEH
    December 2, 2006

    Music

    At midnight on Thursday night, listeners who were tuned into the New York hip-hop radio station Hot 97 got a bracing surprise. Over some familiar strings, a voice said, “R.I.P. to Sean Bell,” the black man who was killed by the police in Queens early Saturday morning. “R.I.P. to Kathryn Johnston,” he continued, naming the 88-year-old woman who was killed by the police in Atlanta last week. “R.I.P. to Amadou Diallo,” he said naming the African immigrant who was shot by the police in the Bronx in 1999. “The list goes on. A change gon’ come.”

    The voice belonged to Papoose, a rapper from Brooklyn whose new song, “50 Shots,” is a furious — and surprisingly detailed — response to the shooting of Mr. Bell. In the last few days, the song has been circulating online. And DJ Kay Slay, who has become a mentor to Papoose, began his midnight radio show by playing it. Papoose has made a name for himself by releasing dozens of mix tapes over the last few years; in one of his best-known songs, “Sharades,” he rapped in the voice of “the hip-hop police,” promising to throw more rappers in jail.

    His style is heavy-handed and quite often dull; he often seems content merely to shout his rhymes over the beat. But he is ambitious and relentless, and with Kay Slay’s help, he got a contract with Jive Records.

    Certainly he wasted no time in responding to the events of Saturday morning, when five police officers fired 50 shots at a car, killing Mr. Bell, who was to be married later that day, and wounding two others, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield.

    Papoose’s song uses a sample of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Near the beginning, he says, “Make the whole hood feel sad, it’s sadness/But we feel mad — it’s madness.” Then he delves into the details.

    He assails the officers by name: “Mike Oliver said his gun jammed, he the main one/12-year veteran and don’t know how to use a gun.”

    He paraphrases the Police Department’s Patrol Guide: “The law states a cop is not permitted to shoot at a moving car.” (That’s true, unless the officer is responding to some “deadly physical force” besides the car itself.)

    He offers measured praise for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, comparing him to his predecessor: “He got some better manners, but let’s see if we get some better policy.”

    Papoose even finds time to respond to a column by John Podhoretz from Tuesday’s New York Post; this is a rhyme that sometimes feels more like a vituperative blog entry.

    Listeners sometimes wonder why hip-hop doesn’t produce more fiery protest music. “50 Shots,” an unsubtle little song that packs a thrilling little charge, is proof that the protest tradition lives on.

    It may also help listeners understand why this sort of thing isn’t more common.

    Your average hip-hop track is more freewheeling than this one, and much more fun. If most rappers prefer boasts to brickbats — well, you can see (and hear) why.

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  10. #25
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Papoose - 50 Shots



    Papoose - 50 Shots (radio rip) Addressing the Sean Bell shooting.

    ***

  11. #26

    Exclamation so saddened

    this is such a sad story
    I was thinking if i went to a party got into an argument with someone outside and leave, then minutes after two suspicious cars block me in and i am unarmed then anticipating my wedding.... getting out of being arrested anyway I can of course. once they blocked me in, I would have rammed them also. the police didnt identify themself, no badges or nothing just guns drown. lord i couldnt imagine being in that car or beibg his fiancee', mother, or just a high school friend...
    we all need to pray for the family, fiancee and daughters...
    lord please give Mrs.bell( sean bell's wife) the strength to survive this devastating circumstance... I cant beleive this, i just cant..the N.Y.P.D. HAS TO STOP!!!!

  12. #27
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Eye Witnesses To Sean Bell Shooting Speak Out,
    Confirm No Fourth Man

    ny1.com
    December 12, 2006

    Two men who say they were eyewitnesses to the deadly police shooting of Sean Bell last month are speaking out for the first time.

    Jean Nelson and Larenzo Kinred held a news conference with their lawyers at City Hall Tuesday in response to a police report that makes no mention of a fourth man being inside the car near the Club Kalua.

    Police questioned Nelson about whether he was the so-called fourth man, but he says the whole theory is wrong.

    "I'm thankful that the truth has come out," said witness Jean Nelson. "There's no fourth man. There's no gun. I just want justice to be served. That's all."

    "We've been cooperating from the district attorney from Queens and we'd like to keep cooperating without the fear of police harassment," said witness Larenzo Kinred.

    Meanwhile, the detective's union says the leaked report is nothing more than a rough draft written just hours after the incident, and was never meant to be conclusive.


    Copyright © 2006 NY1 News.

  13. #28

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    What were the cops drinking in that bar till 4am ? Coke?

  14. #29

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    December 17, 2006

    Protesters Denounce Police Killing


    James Estrin/The New York Times
    Amid holiday crowds, protesters on Fifth Avenue called Saturday for justice in Sean Bell’s death last month.

    By ROBERT D. McFADDEN

    A protest march cut a solemn swath through crowds of Christmas shoppers and the joyous mood of the holiday season in Midtown Manhattan yesterday in a rebuke to the police for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Queens on his wedding day last month.

    Three weeks after Sean Bell was killed and two friends were wounded in a hail of 50 police bullets, a coalition of civil rights groups, elected officials, community leaders, clergymen and others marched down Fifth Avenue and across 34th Street in a “silent” protest that sputtered scattered chants, but was largely devoid of shrieks, speeches and most of the usual sound-and-fury tactics of demonstrations.

    Billed as a “Shopping for Justice” march and led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the army of protesters, many carrying placards, moved grim-faced between hordes of holiday shoppers and tourists clogging the sidewalks of two of the city’s busiest commercial arteries.

    The police had set up metal barricades to confine the marchers to a single traffic lane, but the throng quickly swelled beyond expectations and the barricades were shifted to widen the line of march to four of the five lanes on Fifth Avenue and five of the six on 34th Street. Traffic on side streets leading to the march was halted as the protesters swept on.

    Here and there, marchers shouted “No shopping, no justice,” or “Shot” and numbers from 1 to 50. Others carried signs proclaiming: “Stop NYPD Racist Terror,” and “Justice for Sean Bell.” But most stared straight ahead, ignoring those on the other side of the barricades.

    The size of the protest, strung out for 10 blocks, was anybody’s guess. The organizers said thousands marched. The police, as is customary, gave no estimate. In any case, there were no confrontations, arrests or untoward incidents during the march, the police said.

    “We’re not coming to buy toys, we’re not coming to buy trinkets — we’re coming to shop for justice,” Mr. Sharpton, a man never at a loss for words, said at a morning rally in Harlem, explaining what could not be said in a nonverbal march. “Our presence is a bigger statement than anything we could ever say with our mouths.”

    In Midtown, shoppers gawked. Tourists snapped pictures and wondered what it was all about. Salvation Army carolers sang on, and the protesters, who had been admonished repeatedly by organizers to remain silent, kept discipline only in the front ranks, where members of Congress, the Legislature, the City Council and other V.I.P.s marched alongside a stone-faced Mr. Sharpton.

    “It’s New York, you always see crazy things,” Margaret Rajnik, a nurse from Atlantic City, said at Rockefeller Center, where mobs of shoppers jammed the plaza in front of the skating rink, the giant Christmas tree and the golden Prometheus.

    A sampling of shoppers found many against the protest. “We just came here to go shopping at the American Girl store and go see the Rockettes,” said Cherrie Ostigui, 38, of Odenton, Md. “Now we can’t even cross the street to get our lunch.”

    Steve Diomopoulos, 22, a student from Livonia, Mich., called it “a weird time to be doing this,” and added: “It’s an inconvenience to people like myself who came from out of town and want to get some Christmas shopping done. It’s almost like a hostile atmosphere. I don’t think that’s what people came here to see.”

    But Seleah Bussey, 22, a Brooklyn College student, said, “I think it’s good because it’s a tourist area and tourists need to know what’s really happening.”

    Mr. Sharpton, who called the Queens shooting a case of excessive force, said the march was a moral appeal to the city to change police policies.

    Hours before he was to be married on Nov. 25, Mr. Bell was killed and his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, were wounded in a barrage of police bullets as they left a bachelor party at a strip club. The police, conducting an undercover operation at the club, said they believed the victims were going to get a gun, and opened fire when the men’s car hit an officer and an unmarked police minivan.

    Mr. Bell and his friends were black; the officers were white, Hispanic and black. No guns were found among the victims, and while the police say they are examining reports that a fourth man who ran away may have had a gun, the case has generated vigils and protests that culminated in yesterday’s march.

    Besides the complaints of annoyed shoppers, the march generated two negative responses that were aimed at Mr. Sharpton.

    Before the march, Steven A. Pagones, a former assistant prosecutor in Dutchess County who won a defamation suit against Mr. Sharpton and two others in 1998, showed up near the marchers’ rendezvous point to remind reporters that he had been falsely accused of being one of a group of white men who abducted and raped a black teenager, Tawana Brawley, in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., in 1987. The case stirred racial tensions nationally, but was investigated by a grand jury and found to be a hoax.

    “I want people to understand that for years he’s made reckless allegations in furtherance of his own agenda,” Mr. Pagones said of Mr. Sharpton.

    Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, also cited Mr. Sharpton’s role in that matter. “I think it’s all about credibility, something the Rev. Al had forsaken a long time ago in the Tawana Brawley case,” Mr. Palladino said. “He’s trying to deny our police officers their civil rights and due process. But in the end, a grand jury will hear the evidence and they’ll come to a decision.”

    The protesters, many of whom arrived in buses from Queens, Brooklyn and elsewhere, were joined by Representative Charles B. Rangel, City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., and other politicians; by the singer Harry Belafonte; by leaders and members of the N.A.A.C.P.; the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network; and relatives and friends of Mr. Bell, Mr. Guzman and Mr. Benefield.

    The group included Mr. Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Paultre, who has taken the surname Bell, and one of their two children, Jada, 4, and Abner Louima, the Haitian immigrant sodomized with a broomstick by a police officer in a station house nine years ago. Mr. Benefield rode in a wheelchair, but Mr. Guzman, shot numerous times, remained at a rehabilitation center.

    There were chants and speeches from Mr. Sharpton and others as the crowd assembled at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, but the exhortations ended as the protesters stepped off in early afternoon, heading down a Fifth Avenue decked out for the season.

    The line of march led down a parade of elegant stores, past St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center, where a Salvation Army vocalist sang sweet carols. Giant illuminated snowflakes graced the facade of Saks.

    Lower down the avenue, the marchers encountered sparser crowds shopping for sneakers and sweatshirts.

    The march ended at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue, outside Macy’s. There, Sonia Fatimah, 50, one of the marchers, yelled at a black officer. “I hope they’re not profiling your son right now, Sergeant,” she said.

    Mr. Sharpton and members of the Bell family ducked into the lobby of the Hotel Pennsylvania nearby and waited for the crowd to disperse. Many other protesters, perhaps unaware the proceedings were over, tried to join them inside. There was some pushing and a brief scuffle broke out between some followers and news photographers, but it quickly subsided.

    Later, about 150 followers of the radical New Black Panther Party burned an American flag at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue and heaped verbal abuse on a contingent of police officers. But there were no clashes or arrests.

    Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Confessore, Cassi Feldman, Daryl Khan, Rachel Metz and Anthony Ramirez.


    Nicole Paultre Bell, at right center, Mr. Bell’s fiancée, was guarded by the police during the march Saturday.

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  15. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1 View Post
    Police Statements Vary on Firing at a Vehicle

    nytimes.com
    By AL BAKER
    November 30, 2006

    In the days after the groom-to-be Sean Bell died in a 50-shot fusillade fired at his car by five police officers, city officials have gone into detail about the Police Department’s guidelines for shooting at a moving vehicle.

    The rules, in the department’s Patrol Guide, are clear: “Police officers shall not discharge their firearms at or from a moving vehicle unless deadly physical force is being used against the police officer or another person present, by means other than a moving vehicle.”

    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, by citing the guidelines, raised the possibility that the five officers who shot at Mr. Bell might have been in violation of the department’s internal rule.

    “You should know that it is not the policy of the Police Department, where a police officer can shoot at a car when the car is being used as a weapon,” Mr. Bloomberg said Monday at a City Hall news conference. “So at least, in that case, it would appear that the policies of the Police Department were broken.”

    Mr. Kelly said, “As far as the policy of using deadly force against a vehicle — we have a policy that prohibits that if the only deadly force that’s being used against you is the vehicle itself.”

    But in a series of other recent confrontations in which police officers shot at drivers trying to run them down, police officials voiced unambiguous support for the officers involved. In two police shootings since last month — one in which an officer fatally shot a driver — the police said the shootings appeared reasonable, at least after preliminary investigations.

    On Nov. 11, when a driver in Brooklyn was killed by the police, the officers saw him pointing a gun. In the other, in the Bronx, on Oct. 27, a loaded 9-millimeter gun was found in the driver’s waistband and a second gun was in the car, according to the police.

    In Saturday’s case, at least one police officer appeared to have believed the men in the car had a gun, but no gun was found.

    The three police shootings — and the official statements about them — underscore the nettlesome aspects of trying to set rules for unforeseeable, potentially deadly situations that unfold in seconds. To some, including many retired officers, the guidelines are confusing, even contradictory, particularly since an overarching statement in the Patrol Guide states that the primary function of all officers is “to preserve human life.”

    Andrew Quinn, a lawyer who is general counsel to the Sergeants Benevolent Association, observed that the policy is more restrictive than the state’s penal code. And a veteran prosecutor who has investigated previous police shootings suggested that the hard-and-fast rule is contrary to common sense.

    “The Patrol Guide definitely states that, and it’s hard to believe that it says it, that you can’t use deadly force against a vehicle,” said the prosecutor, who refused to be named.

    “Every cop you say that to says, ‘Oh, come on,’ ” the prosecutor said. “It seems at best to be selectively enforced.”

    Still, some defended the policy as written. John C. Cerar, a retired commander of the Police Department’s firearms training section, said, “Guidelines are guidelines, and they can be violated without breaking the rules.”

    When asked about the policy, Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said, “What we look at is the totality of the situation.”

    He added: “We don’t know the totality of this event yet.” But of the two previous shootings, Mr. Browne said, “There was more than the threat of the automobile alone involved.”

    Indeed, in the Oct. 27 shooting, Mr. Quinn said that Sgt. Edward Warren was not shooting at a car, but “at a driver who was armed and who was about to shoot a cop.”

    “It is idiotic,” he said of the policy. “There are absolutely circumstances where a car can be used as a deadly weapon, and the only way a cop can save his life or the life of a fellow officer or the life of a civilian is to use his handgun.”

    Mr. Kelly has been careful not to characterize the conduct of the five police officers involved in the shooting of Mr. Bell. None of those officers have been interviewed by officials.

    Talk of a gun, however, has colored the early reports of what happened.

    In a confrontation before the shooting outside a Queens strip club, Joseph Guzman, an acquaintance of Mr. Bell’s, shouted, “Yo, get my gun,” the police said. Later, according to the account of a police lieutenant at the scene, a detective working undercover who was shadowing Mr. Bell and his acquaintances called the lieutenant just before the shooting to say the situation was getting “hot,” and, “I think there’s a gun.”

    Cara Buckley and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.


    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
    Um..key word or key phrase here. The NYPD, in justifying why they stop people of color, they always say they saw a gun in the waistband. Ever stuck a gun in your waistband, without a holster? It does not stay there, its falls down into your pants. The gun in the waistband excuse is a buzzword for an illegal stop and search. NO ONE carries a hosterless gun in a waistband: It is too heavy and awkward to stay in the waistband without sliding down into the pants. At the end of the day, it will come out that the 3 men shot and the officers in the bar, were all drunk. We all know what happens when guns and alchohol converge.

    Wait. Maybe they shot him because he was driving while under the influence. Another statement made by the officer who started shooting was that he saw the guy Guzman reaching for what he thought was a gun. Get real: That street is very dark, he said he was leaned forward under the dash. The Altima is a smallish car; I doubt if he had time to see anything inside that car. If you make a mistake, just say you made a mistake. Dont perjure yourself. Which in the end is probably why these cops will either lose their jobs or go to jail. Testi-lying

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