Archive for Monday, November 27, 2006

Protesters demand answers in shooting

November 27, 2006

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— An angry crowd demanded Sunday to know why police officers killed an unarmed man on the day of his wedding, firing dozens of shots that also wounded two of the man's friends. Some called for the ouster of the city's police commissioner.

At a vigil and rally the day after 23-year-old Sean Bell was supposed to have married the mother of his two young children, a crowd led by the Rev. Al Sharpton shouted "No justice, no peace."

At one point, the crowd of a few hundred counted off to 50, the number of rounds that are estimated to have been fired.

"We cannot allow this to continue to happen," Sharpton said at the gathering outside Mary Immaculate Hospital, where one of the wounded men was in critical condition. "We've got to understand that all of us were in that car."

Some in the crowd called for the ouster of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, yelling "Kelly must go."

The police officers' group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care said it was issuing a vote of no confidence in Kelly for the shooting.

Paul Browne, chief spokesman for the NYPD, said Sunday: "We are continuing to look for additional witnesses to shed light on the incident, and assisting the district attorney's office with its investigation."

People gather Sunday for a rally outside Mary Immaculate Hospital in the Queens borough of New York. Trent Benefield, 23, Joseph Guzman, 31, and Sean Bell, 23, who were attending a bachelor party at a Queens strip club, were shot by police officers just after leaving early Saturday. Benefield and Guzman were hospitalized, and Bell, the groom, died from his gunshot wounds.

People gather Sunday for a rally outside Mary Immaculate Hospital in the Queens borough of New York. Trent Benefield, 23, Joseph Guzman, 31, and Sean Bell, 23, who were attending a bachelor party at a Queens strip club, were shot by police officers just after leaving early Saturday. Benefield and Guzman were hospitalized, and Bell, the groom, died from his gunshot wounds.

The five officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, Browne said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his aides were in contact with Bell's family and community leaders throughout the weekend. Bloomberg and Kelly also planned to meet today with community leaders at City Hall.

The shootings occurred about 4 a.m. Saturday outside the Kalua Cabaret, a strip club where Bell's bachelor party took place. The survivors were Joseph Guzman, 31, who was shot at least 11 times, and Trent Benefield, 23, who was hit three times. Guzman was in critical condition Sunday and Benefield was stable.

Relatives of all three men - many of them stoic, and some crying - attended Sunday's vigil but none spoke publicly.

At a news conference Saturday, Kelly said the department still was piecing together what happened, and that it was too early to say whether the shooting was justified.

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