Grand jury indicts 3 officers in Bell shooting
(New York - WABC, March 16, 2007) (WABC) -- Eyewitness News was the first to break the story that three of the five officers have been indicted in the shooting death of Sean Bell and the wounding of Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman on November 25, 2006.
The officers have been identified as Marc Cooper, who fired four times, Detective Michael Oliver, who fired 31 times, and Gescard Isnora, the undercover detective who fired 11 times.
A grand jury made the decision on Friday. We do not know what the charges are. They won't be unsealed until Monday.
The officers' attorneys issued statements to Eyewitness News:
Paul Martin, lawyer for Detective Marc Cooper: "I am disappointed with the grand jury's decision but this is just the first stage of a long process and I am confident that once all the facts are considered by a jury of Detective Cooper's piers, that he will be exonerated of all charges."
Philip Karasyk, lawyer for Detective Gescard Isnora, said: "Obviously, my client is upset, and he's looking forward to having his day in court, and we're all confident he will be vindicated."
James Culleton, lawyer for Detective Michael Oliver: "I am disappointed my client was indicted. But it was not unexpected given the forum we are in."
The two other officers -- Paul Headley, who fired one shot, and Michael Carey, who fired three shots, -- we're told, have escaped grand jury action.
Stephen Worth, lawyer for Officer Michael Carey: "Obviously, we are gratified by the grand jury's decision as to Mike and I have always believed that he acted professionally on the night of this incident."
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown will hold a press conference on Monday at 11:00 a.m., where presumably once the officers are in custody, he is then free to announce the results of the sealed indictments. The officers will then appear for arraignments.
Detectives Union Responds
Eyewitness News reporter Nina Pineda is at Detective Endowment Association headquarters with reaction. The Detectives Union confirmed that the three officers had been indicted by the grand jury.
Detectives Endowment Association President Michael Palladino: "I know the grand jury worked long and hard on this particular case. They obviously heard a lot of evidence ... they obviously feel there are triable issues with respect to these three officers in this case, so I respect their decision. However, I firmly disagree with the decision to indict these officers."
Reaction: Sharpton and Sean Bell's Family
Eyewitness News reporter Marcus Solis is at Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network with reaction from Sean Bell's family.
Upon learning that three officers had been indicted, a lawyer representing the family said they are very encouraged.
"Today there is no joy, there is no vengeance, there is no party here," Sharpton said.
And that's the most animated Sharpton would get upon hearing the news. Flanked by Sean Bell's fiancee and two surviving shooting victims, Sharpton stressed today's indictments are just one step in the legal process.
For three days, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman and Nicole Paultre Bell have been waiting at National Action Headquarters. Guzman, who was shot 17 times and had a bullet removed last night, admitted the wait was nerve wracking.
"I think we all on edge right now, waiting for a decision," Guzman said.
By afternoon, news reached the House of Justice. Sharpton says Bell's friends and family are not looking for vengeance, just the law be applied fairly so an incident like this never happen again.
"The only way you make sure it doesn't happen again is you stop and you punish and you send a signal that we live in a society where laws have to be respected. ...This is certainly not the end, it is the beginning of the next stage of struggle. And struggle we will."
Reaction: Queens Community
As the family reacts to the decison, so is the community. Eyewitness News reporter Phil Lipoff is in Jamaica, Queens with that part of the story.
People here say they have been waiting for a long time for any decision involving indictments, and now they have it. Just a few blocks away from where Sean Bell died in a hail of gun fire, folks here say they are waiting for justice.
"They ain't got no respect ... they're just trigger hungry ... they should be locked up," Tara Moses said.
Moses has been following the grand jury deliberations. She's happy three out of the five officers were indicted, but says it's simply not enough. Others on Jamaica Avenue feel the same way.
"It's a good thing for people all around ... justice will be served," one man said.
"Three out of five? Yeah. Especially the one that shot 31 times. I mean it would be horrible for them not to indict him," a woman told us.
Friday's Grand Jury Deliberations
The grand jury was ordered to return to Kew Gardens in an ice storm this morning to resume deliberations. They met in secret for a third straight day, offering no clues as to why the deliberations took so long.
In his Friday radio show, Mayor Bloomberg continued to insist that New Yorkers should respect the decision, whatever it is and whenever it comes.
"If they indict people, some people will say they didn't indict enough and other people will say they shouldn't have indicted anybody," Bloomberg said. "If they don't indict anybody, then certain people will say that's justice, and others will say justice is not being served."
The deliberations were delayed Thursday after jurors heard from a last-minute witness, a man who claimed he saw someone with a gun, firing at the officers. Although sources say the man told the grand jury that the officers identified themselves that night, there is no indication he ever offered testimony about a man with a gun.
What he did say, however, puts him clearly at odds with every other known civilian eyewitness, including survivors Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman.
One source has said this witness was a complete waste of time.
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