Grand Jury Indicts Three Officers in Sean Bell Shooting

Three

of the five New York Police Department officers accused of murdering a groom to

be the night before his wedding were indicted Friday (March 16) by a grand jury.

Although

officers Marc Cooper, Gerscard Isnora and Michael Oliver were indicted for the

murder of 23-year-old Sean Bell, the Associated Press reports that the

men don’t know what offenses they are charged with. The

remaining two officers in the shooting, Michael Carey and Paul Headley, were not

charged, according to a person familiar with the case, who spoke on the condition

of anonymity because the jury’s decision was not made public. The

indictments mark the latest in a string of events that have occurred in the aftermath

of the Nov. 25, 2006 incident that killed Bell and wounded his two friends Joseph

Guzman, 31, and Trent Benefield, 23.According

to the AP, union representatives and lawyers for the officers said their

clients, who were conducting an undercover investigation at the strip club, became

convinced Bell and his friends were going to retrieve a gun from a car parked,

after overhearing them argue with another patron. The

incident turned fatal after officers fired 50 rounds at Bell, as well as Guzman

and Benefield, who were wounded. No gun was found. Protests

and criticism of the NYPD have followed in response to the department’s handling

of the case."Since

Nov. 25th, we have battled together. Today is a major step in that battle, whether

it will be a step forward, time will tell. But one thing that we can say, if you

stay together and you fight, you can do what is necessary to protect children,"

the Rev. Al Sharpton said at a news conference. While

some celebrate the indictments, Isnora’s attorney Philip Karasyk , told the

AP that his 28-year-old client was "very upset." "But he

is confident that once he has his day in court he will be vindicated." With

the grand jury’s decision revealed, observers are awaiting reaction to the

indictments as news of the grand jury’s decision spreads. The

NYPD, anticipating more protests, announced Wednesday (March 14) that they will

deploy more than 4,000 street and undercover officers to various areas of the

city. In addition, the mayor has met with black leaders to lessen tensions that

might result from the decision."Whatever

the grand jury says … I think you will see the people of this city behaving

in an exemplary manner," Mayor Michael Bloomberg shared with the AP.

"They can be disappointed, they can express themselves — that’s freedom

of speech, I don’t have a problem with that. But nobody is going to go out and

make our streets unsafe."One

factor in the case that may have influenced the grand jury was the testimony of

a last minute witness on Thursday (March 15) who came forward on his own to say

that someone other than the police fired shots and fled. The

credibility of the witness has come under fire by Bell family lawyer Peter St.

George Davis, who said the NYPD had known about the witness since the beginning

of the case and had spoken to him months ago. Despite

the witness’ credibility, his testimony could convince grand jurors that

the officers were justified in open firing. The

grand jurors were instructed to consider several charges: second-degree murder,

manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. The

group’s decisions will be made known during an official announcement on Monday,

according to the Queens district attorney’s office.

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