It’s been nearly five years since Sean Bell, an unarmed black man celebrating his bachelor’s party, was shot and killed in a hail of 50 bullets fired by New York City police officers.
Detective Gescard Isnora was one of five undercover detectives involved in the shooting that took place November 25, 2006. He testified along with fellow officer Michael Carey at a departmental disciplinary trial that the last thing he wanted do to that night was fire his gun. “All I saw was his arm coming up. I wasn’t going to wait for him to have the gun, because then it’s too late,” he testified, according to the Associated Press.
The two other surviving passengers in the car that Bell was shot in said they never heard a warning from officers.
The two officers were acquitted of criminal charges and are now trying to negotiate plea deals in the department’s disciplinary proceedings. Neither officer is on active duty, but both are still on the department’s payroll.
The Associated Press has more details:
The department attorney, Nancy Slater, hinted that Isnora should have kept his cover. She suggested that Isnora overreacted, and that he wasn’t in danger but had already been distressed because of the arguments he’d witnessed inside. She brought up his request to transfer out of undercover.
She reiterated that no gun was found at the scene.
“But you yelled ‘gun’” she asked
“Correct.” Isnora replied.
“Then you discharged your weapon?”
Guzman denied saying anything about a gun; other witnesses also testified that the dispute ended peacefully. He and Benefield testified that they never heard the officers yell warnings before opening fire and tried to drive away because they feared for their lives.
Outside court, Bell’s widow Nicole Paultre Bell — who added Bell’s name after he died — said the evidence shows Isnora shouldn’t be on the force.
“I was thinking that Sean was probably afraid, seeing a man there with a gun so he tried to get home to his family,” she said. “He tried to take off like any person would do.”
The administrative judge will make a recommendation to New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly about if and how to discipline the officers.
Last year, the city agreed to pay $3.25 million to Bell’s estate. That’s in addition to the civil suit settlements reached with the two other passengers: $3 million to Joseph Guzman, who was sitting in the front seat, and $900,000 to Trent Benefield.