NEW YORK — The last couple of weeks have been very hard for the Bell family. The grand jury indictments released in March were met with heavy criticism for not going far enough. The police officers that shot groom-to-be Sean Bell 50 times were charged as follows:
• Michael Oliver fired 31 shots. Charge: first degree murder. If convicted, faces 25 years.
• Gescard Isenora fired 11 shots. Charge: second degree murder. If convicted, faces 25 years.
• Marc Cooper fired 4 shots. Charge: reckless endangerment. If convicted, faces 1 year.
The two other officers, Michael Carey, who fired three shots, and Paul Headly, who fired one shot, were not charged. However, the Rev. Al Sharpton said there was enough evidence to charge the officers.
The trial dates have not yet been set, but the case in the media has begun full swing with an assault on Sean Bell’s character. The Daily News reported that an unnamed drug dealer alleged that Bell had shot him during a “turf war.” However, the drug dealer now denies this story.
The defense and the Detective Endowment Association are pursuing a change of venue, looking to move the case out of Queens, citing that there would be difficulty getting a fair trial. These are the same tactics, that were employed in the Diallo shooting.
The administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been quick to say that they hope “justice will be served.” However, they have refused to entertain even the consideration of some of the demands made by activists calling for the resignation of Commissioner Ray Kelley, and changing the Citizen Complaint Review Board from an advisory board to one with real powers.
“This is not an isolated incident. It is a reflection of policies and procedures that have lead to this,” said Libero Della Piana, New York district organizer of the Communist Party.
The Sean Bell case and its upcoming trial will open new wounds for those touched by police violence. The staggering amounts of stop and frisks, which are 500,000 and out of those 80 percent are African American, has put a spotlight on the culture of the police department and the lack of its accountability. Activists are going to keep the pressure on for change in the coming months.
sdelgado @ cpusa.org