New York Grand Jury Indicts Officers in Shooting A grand jury has voted to indict three New York City police detectives in the killing of an unarmed black man, Sean Bell, according to the Associated Press. On Saturday, supporters of Bell's family rallied in New York's Union Square.
NPR logo

New York Grand Jury Indicts Officers in Shooting

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
New York Grand Jury Indicts Officers in Shooting


New York Grand Jury Indicts Officers in Shooting

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

In New York City, more facts are emerging about the three police officers indicted in the shooting of an unarmed black man, Sean Bell, on his wedding day. The Associated Press and several newspapers are reporting that two of the detectives will face felony manslaughter charges and another will face a misdemeanor for firing most of the 50 bullets aimed at Bell's car.

As NPR's Robert Smith reports, the charges may not be enough to defuse tension in the city over the issue of police brutality.

ROBERT SMITH: Until the criminal charges are officially unsealed on Monday, New York City is in a sort of limbo. There's been a heightened police presence in the neighborhoods in Queens where Sean Bell and his friends lived. The mayors traveled several times since last week to consult with community leaders. But so far, reaction to news of the indictments has been muted. New York City Council Charles Barron spoke to a march of about 200 people this afternoon in Union Square.

CHARLES BARRON: They want to know whether we're going to be violent or not. They want to know if there's going to be some unrest. You're lucky we're marching.

LYDEN: I hear that.

Unidentified Man: That's right.

BARRON: You're lucky we want to have a press conference. We're lucky you want - we want to call you a few names here and there because let me tell you something, 50 bullets, we didn't riot.

SMITH: With that, the crowd began to count, as they have it protest for months, up to 50.

BARRON: ...46, 47, 48, 49, 50. Fifty thousand times a cop...

SMITH: A reminder of the number of bullets fired early on the morning of November 5th. Sean Bell and his friends are just left a strip club in Queens from bachelor party. Police officer say they overheard one of the men talking about a weapon and then followed the group to their car.

Detective Gescard Isnora was the first to confront the men. He says he identified himself as an officer and fired eleven rounds after the car lurched forward. He will reportedly be charge on Monday with felony manslaughter. Detective Mike Oliver fired 31 shots, even reloading his weapon. It was one of his shots that killed Bell. He'll also face felony charges. Mike Cooper fired four times and will face a misdemeanor. Two of the three cops are black.

Michael Palladino of the detective's union said at the press conference that the charges will create a chilling effect on law enforcement across the country - that officers might hesitate now before firing in a dangerous situation.

MICHAEL PALLADINO: And the message that's being sent now is that even though you're acting in good faith and pursuing to your lawful duties, there is no room, no margin for error. And they want to indict our officers and they have done that, and I firmly disagree with it.

SMITH: Philip Karasyk, a lawyer for one of the officers warned the community not to prejudge the men.

PHILIP KARASYK: This is just the beginning of the process. We've had no opportunity to look at the evidence. We had no opportunity to put other witnesses into the grand jury. And we're confident that at the end of the trial, after we've had it adjourned, that all of these officers would be exonerated.

Unidentified Group: (Unintelligible)

SMITH: But mostly African-American crowd that attended the demonstration today didn't need to be reminded of how long the process might take. Each person I spoke to throughout the case of Amadou Diallo. In 1999, he was shot 41 times by police in the Bronx. In that case, two officers were indicted but all of them were later found not guilty. Jeff Murphy(ph) says this time, they'll keep up the pressure to make sure that the men who killed Sean Bell won't get off.

JEFF MURPHY: It's still early. People should wait and pay attention and not, you know, have those same mistakes be made for like Amadou's case and try to be a little bit more proactive as opposed to waiting for whatever decisions are made from these courts.

SMITH: Ebony Bishop(ph) from Brooklyn says she felt that all of the five officers who fired shots should be indicted and to the fullest extent of the law.

EBONY BISHOP: Justice doesn't come in the form of manslaughter. I think there's a very big hypocrisy and a double standard. You know, if someone killed a cop then they're definitely going to get the most stringent penalties. If a cop murders someone else then, you know, there's a standard that that's okay.

SMITH: Under state law police can use deadly force if they have a reasonable belief that their lives are in an immediate danger, even if, as in this case, it turns out the men were unarmed.

Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.