Three New York City Police officers plead not guilty to manslaughter charges in the killing of Sean Bell, an unarmed man who was shot to death outside a Queens nightclub just hours before he was due to get married.
The 50-bullet barrage killed Bell and injured two of his friends as they left a strip club in Queens in November. The court proceedings were watched closely in Harlem by friends and family of the victims.
Of the five officers who opened fire on Bell, the three officers being charged are those who fired the most shots. They suspected the men had weapons; Bell's car reportedly hit an officer before the first shot was fired.
New York state law says that a police officer can fire if he has a reasonable belief that his life is in danger.
As the counts were read, Bell's fiancee, watching at Rev. Al Sharpton's headquarters in Harlem, started to cry. Photographers leaned forward to capture her wiping away the tears. Afterward, she did not speak.
Sharpton said that Bell's family and friends won't accept a replay of the case that involved Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant who was shot 41 times in the Bronx in 1999.
Four officers were indicted in that case. But the trial got transferred to Albany, and the four were acquitted a year after the shooting. Sharpton said that this time, the trial must stay in Queens.