Investigators Looking For Two Witnesses In Fatal Police Shooting
11/29/2006 08:50 AM
Investigators released more details Wednesday about two witnesses they're looking for in connection with the fatal police shooting in Queens Saturday.
Police sources said they are looking for two men in particular, including one who may have arguing with Bell and his friends. Investigators are hoping the men can provide more details about what happened in the minutes before the gunfire began.
According to police sources, one of the undercover detectives says that man reached into his pocket as if he had a weapon and that's when the detective heard one of Bell's friends say "get my gun."
However, no gun was ever found with Bell or his two friends, who were also shot.
Investigators want to know whether there may have been a fourth person with them who managed to flee the scene. They're looking for a man last seen wearing a beige jacket and running away from Bell's car.
One of Bell's friends, in an interview from the hospital Wednesday, told police there was never a fourth person. He also claimed Bell became spooked and tried to take off because he didn't know the undercover was a police officer.
Meanwhile, the parents of the groom killed by police Saturday in Queens visited the scene of the shooting for the first time since the tragedy Wednesday morning.
The Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were there to lend their support to Sean Bell's loved ones. They say that while they're grieving now, they want justice served.
"We are unequivocally going to stand with this family and the other families for justice. It is not just about black or white, 'cause there were blacks involved. There were Latinos involved. This is about right and wrong," said Sharpton. "And if they were all black, we would be here. If they were all Latino, we would be here. If they were all white, we would be here. We are about respecting and regarding human life."
"We must draw a line in the sand and fight back. We grieve today; we march tomorrow. We will not take this kindly. This is not right. It's not fair. It's not just," said Jackson. "We have an obligation to stand up and fight back and demand equal protection under the law and let the FBI do their job. This is a civil rights violation."
Jackson and Sharpton will join NY1's Dominic Carter on Inside City Hall at 10:30 tonight.
Funeral services are set for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Community Church of Christ in Jamaica, the same church where Bell was to be married.
The family of one of Bell's friends who was shot on Saturday was with Bell's outside Club Kalua to see the shooting scene for themselves.
Joseph Guzman, 31, is in critical condition but spoke for the first time. According to a family representative his first words were "they tried to kill me and they tried to kill my friend."
Guzman’s sister says she doesn’t believe the account of the shooting she is hearing.
"I want to see what they saying on the news — what ya'll putting on the news and people saying that they hit the cop car. I don't believe that. This street is too narrow. I drive. If somebody comes in front of me, yeah I'm gonna hit them,” said Yolanda Guzman.
"It is important that the community, especially the African-American community, can see that justice, in this case, be done," said Guzman family representative Imam Charles Bilal. "Everyone is hoping that the mayor, the commissioner, the police make sure that this case is brought to trial."
Family members refuse to allow officers in the hospital because they fear NYPD retaliation. They hope the officers will be prosecuted.
The third man shot by police, Trey Benefield is in stable condition.
Meanwhile, hundreds of students at Medgar Evers College took to the streets Wednesday to protest what they called a grave injustice.
"He's a young guy. He's like a role model, he's only 22 years old," said Student Council president Jonathan Meitre. "He was getting ready to get married and start a family and they took his life like that and that's unfair."
"Something has to be done about this cause 50 shots at three unarmed minorities? There's no reason for that," added a cousin of one of the men shot, Tiara Jonathan.
Students say they want answers and assurances that such a situation will not happen again.
Governor George Pataki spoke out about the shooting for the first time Wednesday. He made his comments from Kuwait, where he held a news conference following a trip to Iraq. Pataki says the shooting is a tragedy, but he trusts city leaders will handle it properly.
"I just have tremendous confidence that Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly are conducting a thorough, appropriate review and they'll make a determination, and I'm sure report to the people of New York, whether or not it involved excessive force," he said. "Obviously 50 bullets fired into or at an unarmed individual in New York is excessive force, but the appropriate response to that is something that I think the investigation of the mayor and the police commissioner will reveal."
Attorney General and Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer said in a phone interview with El Diario La Prensa on Tuesday that he agrees with Mayor Bloomberg that the officers used excessive force. Spitzer denounced the incident adding that the shooting was inexplicable, and also suggested it deserves a thorough investigation.
Meanwhile, the New York Civil Liberties Union is calling on Spitzer's office to open an independent investigation into NYPD policies, including how officers are trained on weapons and how plainclothes police officers identify themselves.
Bell's father, William, spoke to NY1 Tuesday night. He says while his son's death has left him shattered, he doesn't think the shooting was racially motivated.
"I want to make sure that's clear, Color has nothing to do with it. It's the human being that got lost, not the color of his skin," he said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg met with Bell's family Tuesday morning, and then had another meeting with community leaders in Queens.
On Tuesday night's edition of Inside City Hall, the bishop who was supposed to preside over Bell's wedding had only kind words for the mayor.
"I think he's a wonderful mayor. I think that anytime you take the time out to come to someone's church and meet with the family, that shows me that he's genuinely concerned," said Bishop Lester Williams.
"Yes, yes [we're happy with how he's handled the situation], he continued. "I said that to him today... You don't just assume people want you there [at the funeral]. We would want him there."
The mayor has not yet said whether or not he will attend the funeral.
Meanwhile, investigators are looking at security video outside the club where Bell and his friends were shot to try to identify other potential witnesses.
Sources say the video shows people entering and exiting the nightclub Bell was leaving when police riddled his car with bullets, killing Bell and seriously wounding two others. The police involved reportedly say they fired in self-defense after Bell's car hit one officer and rammed their undercover vehicle.
Sources say police are using the video to locate more witnesses. The tape reportedly does not show the shooting itself.
At least one person was questioned by police Tuesday. NY1 has learned that person witnessed parts of the event and saw someone running down the street. However sources say investigators do not believe there was a fourth passenger in Bell’s car.
A police source says the witness is China Flores, who told the Daily News that the undercover officer never identified himself before shooting began. It's an account the union representing the detective says is untrue.
"He had his shield displayed," said Michael Palladino of the Detectives Endowment Association. "He gave orders to the driver of the vehicle. He was also armed with the fact that there may have been a weapon in the vehicle."
No gun was found in the victims' car, but police searched for a weapon last night at a lot near the scene. None was found.
Sources say Detective Mike Oliver is the one who fired 31 shots into Bell's car Saturday morning. Five officers fired 50 rounds in all.
Elsewhere, prosecutors in Essex County, New Jersey say they got word that gangs might target police in retaliation for Bell's death.
Police in New York say they also received a non-specific threat, and while it has been deemed not credible, police officers have been warned to be extra careful.
How would you rate Mayor Bloomberg's response to the fatal police shooting so far?
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