Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, Charles Rangel, Towns, Clarke And Cheeks Kilpatrick,
New York State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith And Southeast Queens Elected Officials Joint Statement On The Sean Bell Verdict on April 25
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.