Sean Bell Verdict Rocks NYC

In a case that has riveted NYC for the last 17 months, today three NYC detectives were acquitted in the shooting death of Sean Bell, a black Queens man who was fired at 50 times after undercover officers claimed they thought he was going for a gun. No gun was ever found.

Three detectives were found not guilty Friday morning on all charges in the shooting death of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 police bullets outside a club in Jamaica, Queens.

Justice Arthur J. Cooperman, who delivered the verdict, said many of the prosecution’s witnesses, including Mr. Bell’s friends and the two wounded victims, were simply not believable. “The testimony of those witnesses just didn’t make sense,” he said.

His verdict prompted several supporters of Mr. Bell to storm out of the courtroom, and screams could be heard in the hallway moments later. The three detectives were escorted out of a side doorway. Outside, a crowd gathered behind police barricades, occasionally shouting, amid a veritable sea of police officers.

The verdict comes 17 months to the day since the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Mr. Bell, 23, and his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, outside the Club Kalua in Jamaica, Queens, hours before Mr. Bell was to be married.

It was delivered in a packed courtroom and was heard by, among others, the slain man’s parents and his fiancée. The seven-week trial, which ended April 14, was heard by Justice Cooperman in State Supreme Court in Queens after the defendants — Detectives Gescard F. Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper — waived their right to a jury, a strategy some lawyers called risky at the time. But it clearly paid off with Friday’s verdict.

A large protest of the verdict is already underway on Queens Boulevard, with traffic now restricted to one lane. Thus far the protest is peaceful, but there are some fears that things could turn violent, particularly with the verdict coming at the start of the weekend. Al Sharpton has been an advisor to the Bell family and is expected to plead for calm.

UPDATE: The Queer Justice League will join a protest rally of the verdict at noon tomorrow at the Queens District Attorney’s office. Address: 25-01 Queens Blvd. between Hoover Ave & 82nd Ave. Take the E or F train to Kew Gardens-Union Tpke & walk 4 blocks SE, parallel to train.