Black Elected Leaders in NY Issue Statement on Sean Bell Verdict - say FBI will Review case

JAMAICA, N.Y., April 26 "A year and a half ago, three police officers fired a total of 50 bullets at three unarmed and innocent young men, killing Sean Bell and severely wounding Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. This incident occurred in the morning of what was supposed to be Sean Bell's wedding day. The past seventeen months have been extremely difficult for Nicole Paultre Bell, Sean Bell's fiancee, his daughters, and his parents, William and Valerie Bell.

"It appeared that the evidence presented by the prosecution during a six week trial was compelling and conclusive. Yet, the verdict rendered by Judge Arthur Cooperman this morning acquitted all three officers of all charges.

"We do not accept that this is the end of this case. We have joined with the families and their attorneys in filing a compliant with the U.S. Department of Justice requesting an investigation of violations of the civil rights of Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman, and Trent Benefield. Indeed, this afternoon the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it's Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York Field Division will conduct an independent review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Sean Bell and two of his friends.

"Although we understand and share the frustration that many New Yorkers are feeling at this moment, we caution against giving into that frustration. Instead, we urge all who are disappointed with the decision to channel their energy into monitoring this review and utilizing their right to peaceful assembly to seek a redress of their grievances over today's decision.

"In the near future the Tri-Level Legislative Taskforce, formed in the wake of the Bell shooting and which held city-wide public hearings on the excessive use of police force, will release its final recommendation.

"We must all remain committed to creating a justice system that is fair to all and building police-community relations that respect the lives and well-being of all."

    Congressman Gregory W. Meeks
    Congressman Charles B. Rangel
    Congressman Edolphus Towns
    Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke
    Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
    Queens Borough President Helen Marshall
    Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm A. Smith
    New York State Assemblywoman Vivian Cook
    New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Clark
    New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Titus
    New York State Assemblyman William Scarborough
    New York Council Member Thomas White, Jr.
    New York Council Member Leroy Comrie

Pictured above: People hold signs representing the number of bullets fired into the car of Sean Bell as they protest the outcome of the not guilty verdict in the case against three detectives of the Bell trial in New York City, April 26, 2008.