Sound Off

Your Turn: On the Sean Bell Verdict

Sean Bell reaction

A woman reacts after the Sean Bell verdict. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A New York judge today found three undercover detectives not guilty in the police shooting of Sean Bell. The unarmed man died in a hail of 50 bullets a few hours before he was to be married.

On the show today, Delores Jones-Brown of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice cited a nationwide trend of police either not being indicted or being acquitted when they kill civilians in the line of duty. Police are generally firing fewer bullets — those aimed at Bell and his friends accounted for nearly 10 percent of the NYPD's total that year — but Jones-Brown says that doesn't matter to the loved ones left behind.

"When you're the family members of the victims, you could care less what's going on in other parts of the state or in other parts of the country," she says. "And on an individual basis, a case such as this one where you've got at least one officer shooting 31 times, his shooting alone exceeds the average of the department by almost 10 times."



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I read the judges verdict and it says that the car (which was shot at) rammed a police van (marked?) twice, before the police fired. Using a car as a battering rod against police has never been a good idea. It is considered a deadly weapon.

Another factor is US gun culture. In Europe this sort of thing hardly ever happens, because police are not used to being confronted with armed citizens, and they are taught to shoot not-to-kill when they can.
Get rid of guns, there is no need for them in a civilized society.

Sent by Daniel | 11:47 AM | 4-25-2008

This tragic event shows the need and should be an impetus to place into use "Non Lethal Restraints" and train for this type of encounter.

Sent by Bill Antley | 12:17 PM | 4-25-2008

"I read the judges verdict and it says that the car (which was shot at) rammed a police van (marked?) twice, before the police fired. Using a car as a battering rod against police has never been a good idea. It is considered a deadly weapon.

Another factor is US gun culture. In Europe this sort of thing hardly ever happens, because police are not used to being confronted with armed citizens, and they are taught to shoot not-to-kill when they can.
Get rid of guns, there is no need for them in a civilized society."

I must agree that ramming a police vehicle, be it marked or unmarked, is a poor decision. I was curious if in your reading of the judges verdict you happened to come across the fact that there was no gun in the car with Mr.Bell.

I just don't understand how a judge or the three officers can justify shooting an individual FIFTY times, who was armed with what? A car?.....You must be joking.

Sent by Eric | 12:18 PM | 4-25-2008

Get rid of guns, there is no need for them in a civilized society.
Well, obviously by reading this article, the police who HAVE GUNS do not behave civilized, therefore the People are forced to protect themselves with the same measure.

Sent by Anthony | 12:49 PM | 4-25-2008

I'm not saying I understand or agree with this decision. However, I think sometimes a judge or jury have to make decisions not only based on the facts of this case but, how this case will affect other cases and public safety. The truth is that with the evidence presented this judge obviously did not see it fit to put these officers bars. Now maybe that has more to do with the fact that if he did put them in jail this would encourage real criminals to try to do something similar. I don't know. I think this is a very difficult decision...there is a man dead and police officers to blame. I think you have to look at it from all sides, and the truth is in a similar situation who knows how we ourselves would react...on either side.
Mr. Bell may not trust police officers and that's why he did what he did. And these police officers don't trust the public in general...remember they put themselves in dangerous situations on a daily basis.
I don't's a bad situation...and if it were my family or my fiance I would be devestated also...but, if it was my husband on trial I could understand the need to shoot before being shot.

Sent by Anonymous | 12:58 PM | 4-25-2008

There must be an unwritten rule in every police force in America that African-Americans are not only less than human,they are less than animal. It is O.K. to and kill African-American suspect at any encounter.
I said less than animal because Michael Vick the pro-footballer was recently sent to jail for dog-fighting.
Yet, everytime white cop killed armed or unarmed African-American suspect, the justice system always find these cops innocent.
I have lived in the country for more than three decades. I have not heard of an incident where a white suspect was shot and killed by another white police or Black police officer. It has always and it will continue to be white cops killing African-Americans with impunity.
Somehow,white cops generally exercise restraint and never shoot to kill a white suspect.Even when these white suspects are armed. But, African-American suspects' lives are fair game.
It is a shame!. Most whites would never know what it is like to be shot killed by the same cops that are paid by taxpayers to serve and protect the community.

Sent by Kingsley O. | 1:03 PM | 4-25-2008

Kingsley: "I have lived in the country for more than three decades. I have not heard of an incident where a white suspect was shot and killed by another white police or Black police officer."

You must not be from Boston. Otherwise, you'd know the name Victoria Snelgrove. Try again.

Sent by Stewart | 1:08 PM | 4-25-2008

This is a very sad day for America. I am, at once, lucky to be white in this racist society and ashamed of being white in this day and age. It brings back visions of police dogs attacking blacks in the South in the 60's

Sent by John C | 1:08 PM | 4-25-2008

It does not matter what was said, 51 times, now a father, husband, child, again is gone over a statement "I thought he had" This truly sad, my prayers to the family.

Sent by A person who cares. | 1:19 PM | 4-25-2008

As a black man in this country, I fear for my two sons, my newphew and my self. I fully understand that my life and the life of other black men and boys in this country mean nothing. Nothing. Verdicts like this prove me right all the time. I hope you're paying attention Mr. Obama.

Sent by Jermaine | 1:34 PM | 4-25-2008

And folks wonder why Pastor Jeremiah Wright said G.D. America!

Sent by Nkosi-Kwame Ankhamen | 1:43 PM | 4-25-2008

There is so much violence in the world that sometimes emotions as well as people not knowing who people really are causes so much mishap..... I truely believe Sean and his friends could not determine who the men were with Guns (so many people good or bad carry guns) As well as the offiers not knowing who Sean and his friends were (ALL GOODS GUYS) that in a Minute ALL those lives changed leaving no one happy, not even the officers.

To the Bell Family -- Be proud of having such a good son who's life was cut short because of ALL the crime in the world. If there were no crime your son would be here.

To the officers, I Hope that you find peace at the end of the day. Keep yourselves safe from such a tuff job.
I don't believe you were at fault I believe everyone in the world who has commited a crime is guilty of Sean's death.

No one happy

Sent by unknown | 1:48 PM | 4-25-2008

Reckless endangerment!, there's no getting around it, this was just bad police work,common sense sez "if you fire one bullet at someone (let alone 51) what are your true intentions? Police in NYC have been free to abuse there authority at every turn and any given moment and though it is not all police when they find these cowards who hide behind their Badge's they should deal with them the same way they deal any other crimminal,this was not an act of racism that is clear,however to fire a gun at anybody 51 times (they stopped and reloaded) hardly justifiable. We will never agree on anything about this trial but the truth will still remain long after all this is said done those young men had their civil right's violated and justice is once again denied to the true victims in this case.

Sent by willaim | 1:51 PM | 4-25-2008

CLASSICAL & 100% WHIT AMERICA RACIST B***$*** PERIOD? I can give a Rats A$$ about the JUSTICE SYSTEM. Me personally, It's about TIME for Another LA RIOTS around this Whole country.I have personally LOST FAMILY MEMBERS as well as childhood friends to POLICE(SWINE=FILTH) MENTALITY whether off or on duty. They are a Bunch of B****** who are and never will Be REAL MEN or WOMEN without a WEAPON with A Badge. They cant take No More A$$ kickings because in order for a Man to Kill another man Claiming his Life was in Danger and Discharge a Weapon OVER 30 times when it only takes 1 B-U-L-L-E-T to Stop/End a Life,they Deserve to Be Tried, Found Guilty, and Severely Punished. Street Justice or Court Justice. Don't matter. Take this how you want to, but in Reality, when the $*** hits the Fan, America Law Enforcement is going to NEED more than they Toys when the ALMIGHTY ONE returns to set up JUSTICE. Y'all take it how you want, but we will ALL SEE. Peace & Love to the Bell Family and may the Most High grant your Family many Blessings and Longer Life. To the NYPD HOLICE,my bad, POLICE DEPT.,those 3 Detectives need to do ONLY one thing, and thats Do What SEAN BELL did & thats Untimely & Unjustified. Do the Math*)

Sent by T.O.N.E (High Ranking Official-Executive Level) | 1:55 PM | 4-25-2008

Jermaine -
Keep the faith I too am affraid for my life from all the crime in the world.
That is what make this case just a horrible situation... Crime killed Sean
Crime comes in all shapes and colors --

Sent by lets stand together | 2:02 PM | 4-25-2008

What a shame, but not surprising. This type of behavior will never cease. Blacks are less than human in the eyes of most whites and unfortunately, all young black men have to pay the price for what others have done. How can those officers justify the amount of bullets that they fired? There is no justification, and the fact that they got away with it means that others will try/do it again. This is not the end, it's only another chapter in an ongoing saga. And we wonder why America is perceived the way that it is. When my 11 year old cousin came from Wales for a visit, he wanted to go see the "cops and robbers."

Sent by trying hard | 2:04 PM | 4-25-2008

Working as a Legal Assistant, after having served in the US Navy and as a Journalist beforehand, I've witnessed so many incidences which are 'covered up' by law enforcement. It's ridiculous. I believe our law enforcement agencies need improved hiring practices, more training, screenings, and college degrees. Presently, any chucklehead with a high school diploma is issued a gun and a badge. HUGE MISTAKE! This is a tragic day in American history.

Sent by Hyatt | 2:27 PM | 4-25-2008

I've tried putting myself in the police officers' shoes in this situation, because I think they have a difficult job that is often terrifying and perilous. So perhaps they percieved danger. Perhaps the "suspects" rammed their car into the police cruiser. Perhaps the police felt the need to shoot to protect themselves. But I can't fathom that the "danger" continued to exist after the first round of bullets. The officers shot, the boys stopped (either because they were stunned or dead), and the police reloaded and continued shooting. That's where it crosses the line for me. Immoral. Inhumane. Unacceptable.

Sent by Jeff | 2:38 PM | 4-25-2008

It will never cease to amaze me how Blacks will claim they are treated as "less than human" by Whites and use an incident like this as an example. Multiple times a day, all over this country, young Black men are killing other young Black men without a word of outcry from the Black community. The so called "friends" of these dead Black men then refuse to assist Police in the investigations of these murders. So, where does the "less than human" mentality really exist? Wake up.

Sent by Amazed | 2:40 PM | 4-25-2008

Let's Stand Together -
I would be inclined to agree with you if it weren't for the inherit history of unjustified killings of black people since the before the birth of this nation. This is not an islolated incident. I put value in my life and the life of my people. I just know that outside of that, others don't value it the same. And probably never will.

Sent by Jermaine | 3:01 PM | 4-25-2008

Officers need rage training. Regardless of the circumstances, there's no need for one person to shoot someone who they percieve as a threat them 31 times.

Sent by Pat | 3:08 PM | 4-25-2008

Sent by Kingsley O. | 1:03 PM ET | 04-25-2008

Kingsley, you and your black friends always blaming others based on colour of skin, how pathetic. Grow up and start taking responsibility for the way people act now just blacks. All people in the USA are the same. Do not blame yourself and create excuses based on colour of skin. This is only lame, unexcusable, and self-victimisng!!!

Sent by P. J. Sinclair | 3:36 PM | 4-25-2008

police work isnt easy and we must undestand they can make mistakes.but this is nt the first such incident and it seems the verdict says this is ok behavior.this makes no sense though i grew up in the mean streets of nyc in the 60s and 70s i now spend half my time in one of the 38 states that have passed laws to issue a concealed weapons permit swiftly if they can produce no reason not to.this is only necesasary if you wish to conceal it its legal to wear it in an open holster or keep it in plain siight say on your dashboard-yes i know you city folks are aghhast but this is how its always been in most of this country a boy gets his first gun at ten to go hunting hes very careful and takes a hunter safety course because its his prize possesion and activity you must be 14 to have a handgun in my state and we dont shoot each other but i digress my point is i am often pulled over by cops for driving infractions i look a bit like one of their profiles i suppose in any case they ask do i have a weapon and i say yes i have two hand guns and that im licenced they sometimes already know i have the licence if they pull up my record before approaching me.they usually ask me to then stay in the car if im carrying if im not but i have one under the seat they may ask me to stand outside the car they dont ask me to disarm they havnt the right unless im being arrested.the point is police all over this country must deal with lawfully armed citizens all the time,why is it city police think they should be allowed to execute people for suspicion of having a gun if these cops heard one of bells freinds say he was going to get a gun that should have clued them in that he didnt have one.if he did it might have been licenced possible though unlikely in nyc,they should have asked no one challenges police to gunfights but plainsclothes cops that pull guns on people without identifying themselves ought to expect a like reply being in a place where guns only can be had by criminals and cops makes them arrogant trigger happy executioners.

Sent by michael | 3:42 PM | 4-25-2008

blacks in the usa always, always, use their colour of skin as an excuse for not getting justice, ahed in life, failing in life, etc., etc.,. let us look at asians, arabs, and africans, they have different skin colours, in addition, they have language, cultural,economical, and social barriers to overcome, but never, i repeat, never excuse themselves as not being able to get ahead in life due to skin colour. They succeed period!! usa blacks should learn from their ancestors, true african blacks that go to school and get ahead in life. usa blacks, you do not speak another language, nor do you have any social, cultural, language, and economic barriers!!! your excuses for not getting justice, ahead in life, succeed in life is not due your skin colour but due to you narrow viwes and self-limiting attitudes!!!

Sent by agymang mgung | 3:46 PM | 4-25-2008

Why is this a black and white thing. Two offices are black and one white. The only reason why we are making sure a thing is because the man who die is black. Why don't we ask the Black men why so many kill one another. Brother to Brother, there is no brother-hood .

Sent by Atzmon | 4:04 PM | 4-25-2008

The reason that NYPD officers have a long history of firing alot of shots during a violent encounter is they are issued ball ammunition. Most police departments only use ball ammunition for practice. This type of ammunition has little immediate effect in a violent encounter unless an individual is shot muliptle times and even then officers don't see any reaction from the individuals they are shooting .... so they continue to shoot hence the high numbers of shots fired.

Sent by anonymous | 4:31 PM | 4-25-2008

Judges and police officers work together so closely that the judges find it difficult to throw the book at officers of the law who have broken it. Our justice system needs some way to eliminate this obvious conflict of interest on the part of judges. I hope this judge will someday be held accountable for this obvious miscarriage of justice.

Sent by Jerry Kerr | 4:46 PM | 4-25-2008


Sent by EZE, VICTOR C. | 5:04 PM | 4-25-2008

I agree with the general finger pointing blacks do with everything. Well, let's look at some of the comments here suggesting this was a racist event. there were two black detectives and a white detective involved in this incident. So, how is this a white on black crime? Sounds more like a black on black crime to me. And, speaking of black on black crimes, they happen all the time in our cities and suburbs (more and more), but I don't see demonstrations or riots happen when they occur. blacks focus so much on skin color. I wonder who's the racist here? wake up and see your hypocrisy.

yeah, why don't you riot and destroy your own neighborhoods again. that'll solve your problems.

Fed Up

Sent by Fed Up | 5:04 PM | 4-25-2008

I am a "white" man, though that term has little meaning to me except to label me as the worst of humanity both in the U.S. and in the world even worse: an American white man. I am of the group responsible for an awful lot of bad behavior (mildy put) and racism toward those are not "white" and/or not American. Sometimes I wish all of the human race could turn some new color; pea-green might work. That might solve a lot of problems or maybe not. This kind of absolutely unreasonable police carnage should not be tolerated whether the victums are black, brown, white, or pea-green and whether or not the police are of a different color. (I know the victums in this case were labeled as black. I have not heard what the race or races of the police shooters were labeled-not that it should really matter). That a court cannot recognize the simple truth that I think most of us can is perhaps the worst of this story. These out of control cops should be in jail for a long, long time. Prostitution is not the kind of crime that requires shooting to regulate, if it should even be regulated. Neither is drunkenness (except as a last resort to protect) nor even "ramming" (I would guess since the vehicles were close that was more like bumping) a police vehicle. I can't see where our nation is headed except wrong-headed in the wrong direction, back to bad old days of police brutality to minorities and/or dissedents and the riots that finally erupted in the 1960's. Let us not re-live that history. And even gun lovers know that it doesn't take 50 rounds to kill a couple of folks. This was something else: police run amok. Somebody needs to pay the price for that and I'm afraid it may be all of us.

Sent by Gerald | 5:13 PM | 4-25-2008

Enough talk!!! It is quite obvious that the only defense for black men against the police is to kill the police first. For the first time in my life, I am going to get a gun and settle all my issues with violence. Spare me the moralizing!!!!

Sent by alan hester | 5:35 PM | 4-25-2008

For those who talk about blacks always making excuses, is not true for all Black people. I feel that America is going downhill, no one is working together and it is only getting worse. I feel that him being shot so many times is an outrage. I feel that not enough is done to those in authority; I feel justice should be done.I do feel this incident is not the last to happen and it will continue as long as some people abuse their power. The prayers go out to the family

Sent by Someone | 5:54 PM | 4-25-2008

this is an absolute miscarriage of justice. 50 bullets and no sign of crossfire? i have a hard time believing that after about even a dozen rounds that these undercovers couldn't figure out that they were not being fired at? the universal police motto is "to protect and serve". that should mean the public, not themselves. all hail the wall of blue.

Sent by anonymous | 6:05 PM | 4-25-2008

I have definitely changed my attitude toward the police. I will never help the police ever again. Woe be to any victim in which I am the only witness!!

Sent by alan | 6:16 PM | 4-25-2008

Bullets come out one at a time. that means they pulled the trigger 51 times:


It takes more than a split second to fire that many times. The NYPD is turning into a occupying force. Remember, the NYPD paid out nearly $500 million in excessive force claims last year. That is a dusgusting statistic.

And for the people saying this is why we need to get rid of guns, may I remind you... THEY WERE UNARMED!!!!!!

Sent by Brian L. | 6:58 PM | 4-25-2008

WHEW... not good... really... not good

Sent by alexander | 8:45 PM | 4-25-2008

Its not about the amount of bullets fired. The threat of a person with a gun ramming his vehicle into other vehicles gave the officers the impression that either their lives or others were in danger. The officers fired enough shots to stop the threat. A more important question would be "why didnt Sean Bell comply with the commands of the officer in the first place?...lets talk about that!

Sent by kodiack | 9:29 PM | 4-25-2008

This does not surprise me! This simply shows the lack of respect for African Americans lives. Now, what is important is how our Federal Government will handle this situation.

Sent by Teresa | 10:31 PM | 4-25-2008

Close your eyes and imagine it was a white person that was shot that many times. Do you think the judge would have come to the same conclusion? I don't think so. It is very sad to know that your life does not have any value if you are "black". I experience the same on my job day after day. God help us all!

Sent by Mary Jenkins | 11:01 PM | 4-25-2008

I have been following this and I do not understand why police get away with shooting unarmed victims and not being charge, police brutality needs to be reexamined.....Not a good decision, not good at all

Sent by sally sue | 11:25 PM | 4-25-2008

Rodney King was arrested by uniformed police in marked squads. He resisted, and they beat the shit out of him. OK, so maybe the cops overreacted a little, but the point is, he knew he was being arrested and he resisted. Bad choice, but he asked for it. On the contrary, Sean was accosted by plain clothes thugs in unmarked cars. If someone pulled a gun on me and I wasn't sure if he was a cop, I'd do exactly as Sean did and get the hell away. NO PLAINCLOTHES COP SHOULD EVER PULL A GUN UNLESS SOMEONE PULLS ONE ON HIM FIRST OR HE NEEDS IT TO BREAK UP A FIGHT!!! NYPD is at fault here, big time. As for Sean, R.I.P. baby. I only wish you had run over one of those SOB's so he could accompany you.

Sent by Rick | 12:41 AM | 4-26-2008

To Fed Up
Racism is based on the race of the victim, not the perpetrator. Since you feel that blacks don't do enough, I will let my gun take care of the problems from now on

Sent by Alan | 1:12 AM | 4-26-2008

I'm sure many people can understand and have seen scuffles and nonsense outside of clubs in the city, but what I don't understand is the downplaying of did Sean Bell and his boys KNOW these were NYPD they were being followed by? When the officers approached thier vehicle, they most likely had been drinking and were not very likely making sober decisions. They had been threatened and involved in some heated confrontation and probably were in fear for their lives as soon as the van followed them after the initial incident. If you didn't know that the civilian dressed officers were police, wouldn't that affect you reactions? I'm ramming anyone with my car if I'm in fear for my life, but the officers knew they were getting into when they engaged Sean Bell and his boys in the vehicle. They were looking for exactly what they got. Police need to be held responsible for their actions just as civilians do. But where is the justice? There is no justice because the officers testimonies and reports trump any civilians statement to the contrary, always. The system doesn't even pass the DUMB test. If you can sue a business because your coffee is too hot and WIN, a crook can sue because they broke into your home and got hurt and WIN, and a black man can be shot 50 times and the officers can WIN, there is NO justice. Reasonable doubt? I can't believe the audacity of using the term "reasonable" in ANY context with the court system.

Sent by Ecitsuj | 11:22 AM | 4-26-2008

Aside from the comments being made here. I think that we all need to get the facts before we begin to make assupmtions. The new media is driven by their budgets and making a profit. i do not fault the news organizations for doing so. However, there needs to be some levity in broadcasting the events they cover. Less sensational coverage, which only contributes to the reader/viewer to draw conclusions that are skewed. and, cause further division among the people.I know this may fall on deaf ears, however, I do wish that we could as a community- a nation - world population, become a more harmonius, altruistic society.vaugue and idealistic, maybe. but, it's just a wish.

Sincere regards,
Fed Up

P.s. to the commenter Alan, I really don't understand your comment that, "Race is based on the victim, not the perpetrator", what does this mean? I figure you strings words together that seem intelligent. Why not think about what you are trying to convey and then type it out. I might help to have an intelligent conversation. And, as for the comment, letting the gun speak, you have a long life of learning ahead of you.

Sent by Fed Up | 1:19 PM | 4-26-2008

Some say the has racial overtones. The verdict should be scary for both black and white. It means that if you get stopped by a police officer, black or white, and you move or say or do anything the cop doesn't like, you can be shot,not once but 50 times, die have your family go to court and the ones that shot you go free.

Sent by Lavel McCray | 2:09 PM | 4-26-2008

Ecitsuy said:
"When the officers approached thier vehicle, they most likely had been drinking and were not very likely making sober decisions."

If that's the case (and it was: Bell took the wheel legally drunk), it was probably just as well they were shot on the sport rather than risking the lives of innocents on the road.

Many posters here go on about 50 shots. There were indeed 50 shots... but from five of the seven officers present. And one of them was responsible for 31 of those shots. So 5 shots on average from four cops, and one grossly excessive cop with more than the rest of them combined. It's dark, in a dangerous environment, there's a guy in a car apparently trying to run the cops over. Oh, and the only reason the police were called in was because one of the "victims" was heard by an undercover office calling out for a friend to get his for him.

NYPD cops are not perfect, and there certainly is racism in the police. But Sean Bell et al would not be my choice as posterboys for police misconduct.

PS: Mike P. did a fine job with the "trend" woman. Yes, there's a trend she said... except there isn't, she admits. Except there is she says. Except there isn't she admits again. What a bunch of BS, and good for Mike to keep coming back to the premise of the interview: is this an isolated incident or part of a greater problem?

Sent by Marc Naimark | 2:57 PM | 4-26-2008

This is one of the most shameful verdicts since the supreme court gave George W. the presidency. Its time that we the people stop taking these abuses of power lying down! We need to demand justice! 50 bullets is insane! At the VERY least these scum bag officers should be fired... but what they really deserve is to be imprisoned for MURDER.

Sent by A. Cook | 3:41 PM | 4-26-2008

this has been a very sad, disturbing verdict and capone shoots 50 bullets...not trained policemen...exactly what was the training for???

Sent by jan | 5:46 PM | 4-26-2008

African Americans should take special note of this....particularly African American men. In the United States, police officers can kill you at their discretion and with impunity.

Sent by hakkaida | 6:51 PM | 4-26-2008

Reasonable doubt?

There is no doubt Sean Bell is unreasonably dead.

51 bullets? Whatever justification, these policeman are functionally and emotionally unqualified to pack iron. Whether they remain on the force, they must not ever again be allowed on the streets with firearms.

Judge Cooperman? However legally nuanced, does this verdict exhibit the level of judgment citizens are to expect from the bench?

Sent by Hneftafl | 11:55 PM | 4-26-2008

Marc Naimark said: "If that's the case (and it was: Bell took the wheel legally drunk), it was probably just as well they were shot on the sport rather than risking the lives of innocents on the road.-- There were indeed 50 shots... but from five of the seven officers present. And one of them was responsible for 31 of those shots. So 5 shots on average from four cops, and one grossly excessive cop with more than the rest of them combined. It's dark, in a dangerous environment, there's a guy in a car apparently trying to run the cops over. Oh, and the only reason the police were called in was because one of the "victims" was heard by an undercover office calling out for a friend to get his for him.

NYPD cops are not perfect, and there certainly is racism in the police. But Sean Bell et al would not be my choice as posterboys for police misconduct."

Yes, one was grossly excessive thats entirely true. At the least he should be put at a desk for a while.

The cops posing as civilians hardly warrant any more consideration from Sean Bell "et al" when it is apparent that they were in fight or flight mode. Ramming the van that they possibly had no clue was a police vehicle is again an overlooked detail.

Though I agree that it is very possible that these men were not "posterboys", what happened that night and what was said in the court room most likely are inconsistent. The claim from the cops "They/he gestured and spoke as if they were attempting to retrieve a gun" holds no weight at all. These are tactics that have been used for years by police to justify all out police bullying in the streets. If you believe every word of either sides testimony, your judgment is no less fallible than that of the judge in this case. All the claims of "WMD" here were once again not substantiated at the end of the day.. there not only was there NO gun, but there was NO gun near any of the men.

I will also say that its quite silly to me that the one victim claimed to have been shot while running away.. and then forensics proved that was not the case. Instead of looking for millions of dollars in generating sympathy from a lie about how he was wounded, he completely obliterated his own and the groups credibility! Showing up in a pin striped suit, corn rows, and some beaver skin-looking coat screams exploitation and opportunism to me. So I don't really think that is appropriate either.

So Marc I can only say that I don't have all the answers but try to keep what your reading in perspective and just because its painted a certain way doesn't mean the colors you see in the painting, were the colors that were used.

Sent by Ecitsuj | 8:21 AM | 4-27-2008

I wrote "50 Bullets" a day after the shooting because I believe the death/murder of Sean Bell is a tragedy of "shakespearean proportions," for like Romeo and Juliet this young couple got caught up in society's contentions. Meanwhile, there have been 5 or 6 more preventable police shootings since this happened. These types of actions by the "authorities" breed hopelessness and a sense of desperation that just creates more crime and institutes the cycle of poverty we see. I also believe that we all have to unite against hate. If he were alive today, Shakespeare himself would have probably remembered that it was at the wedding celebration where Christ performed his first feat. Well, how ironic is this? For a miracle is what we need now if we're going to get any justice and heal all the pain caused by this shooting. How do we prevent this from happening agian? Herein lies the real crime: "complacency." Some say it's a "crime" and some say it's a "tragedy. " Visit my page, check out my song/video ( and tell me what do you think.


Sent by Yardmon50 | 10:46 PM | 4-27-2008

To Fed Up:

Very interesting that you bring up this point. This is a forum about the slaying of Sean Bell and you want to divert the issue about the problems of the African-American community. My pont is this: since it is ok for a law-abiding African-American to be killed for no reason, then it is ok for me to protect myself against MURDERERS, especially one masquerading as police detectives. I extend this to bigots as well. No more complaining about racism: better to shoot them instead!

Sent by alan | 6:18 AM | 4-28-2008

This case is sickening. Sean Bell was trying to flee from a perceived danger and the Cops say they thought their lives were in danger as well. It boils down to who the judge believed was really in fear and he obviously believed the cops as opposed to a groom who wanted to get out of there so he can make it to the altar. This is the kicker how many times I have read posts and comments by those that refer to Sean and his friends as "thugs" with a criminal past. Those cops didn't and couldnt' have known what their criminal records were at the time of the shooting so that is no bearing on how they reacted. So please stop brining that up.

Sent by Nikki | 4:25 PM | 4-28-2008

The African American community is fully aware of the black on black crime. However, that is not the topic at hand. In the case of Sean Bell, It's important to remember the officers responsbile, no matter what their race, acted in a manner that did not respect or value the life of a young man. We are not discussing just one case of racisim here, we are seeking solutions for the systemic racism which devalues the life of black men.

Sent by Elsa | 4:27 PM | 4-29-2008

Murderous trigger pumping morons in uniform need to be held responsible for their actions to protect the innocent public.

Sent by James Stewart | 4:32 PM | 4-29-2008

Sean Bell's case would have been a really loud DUI arrest, even if this hadn't happened. It may not have turned into Rodney King incident, but it was not going to be good. In my opinion, what went wrong was the police approach. First of all, New Yorkers are well known for arguing constantly, loudly, and for a very long time. However, the detectives apparently thought they were onto someone actively involved in felonies. They bought they loud act. The correct approach would have been, and I think this is part of the training, not to close distance with Bell if the officer was so sure he had a weapon. Weapons go off, right? Why make yourself a target. The officers apparently forgot that, when you're out of uniform in NYC, you are a total nobody. Thus, the mixture of alcohol and a small crew of perceived 'civilians' approaching resulted in Bell expressing his contempt by simply ignoring them and continuing to drive, albeit drunkenly. In summary, if you think someone has a gun, please, stay back SOME distance! Will you? I could almost swear this is part of the police manual. If not, then, look at the fire department. Sure, as soon as they find out there are still people trapped in the building, many of them will risk their lives going in. But that's only because it is people they are trying to save. If it's just a warehouse and absolutely no report is forthcoming that there are people there, they wouldn't go in. These officers, according to their testimony, simply wanted to him.

Sent by Raul | 8:50 PM | 5-4-2008


Sent by Bill | 5:55 PM | 5-8-2008

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from