NEW YORK – Three detectives were acquitted Friday in the 50-shot killing of an unarmed black groom-to-be on his wedding day, a case that put the NYPD at the center of another dispute involving allegations of excessive firepower.
Police officers surrounded the courthouse, and as news of the verdict spread many in the crowd began weeping. Others were enraged, swearing and screaming “Murderers! Murderers!” or “KKK!”
Inside the courtroom, spectators gasped. Sean Bell’s fiancee immediately walked out of the room; his mother cried.
But the police officers – Detectives Gescard Isnora and Michael Oliver, who were acquitted of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment, and Detective Marc Cooper, who was found not guilty of reckless endangerment – could still face charges: The Justice Department announced after the verdict that it will review the case to determine whether to prosecute the officers for violating the victim’s civil rights.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended court Friday alongside the family of the victim, said he will launch a boycott and a series of nonviolent protests, starting today.
Bell, a 23-year-old black man, was killed in a hail of gunfire outside a strip club in Queens on Nov. 25, 2006, as he was leaving his bachelor party with two friends.