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Officer testifies dispute took place before shots were fired

Detective Hispolito Sanchez took the stand in the criminal trial of his former partners, Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper, and recalled the events of Nov. 24, 2006 when he and his team were working undercover at the Jamaica strip club.The detective told Supreme Court Judge Arthur Cooperman that around 4 a.m. the following morning, Joseph Guzman started trading words with the man standing in front of a black SUV and heard Guzman make a loud order to his friends."Yo, go get my gun," Guzman said, according to Sanchez's testimony.The detective said Bell, who was going to walk down the aisle later that morning, goaded his friends into fighting the driver but after a couple of minutes of arguing, he, Guzman and Trent Benefield walked away. Sanchez said he was concerned because his team was investigating suspected drug and prostitution operations within the club and alerted his supervisor, Lt. Gary Napoli."I said, 'Move.' This guy said, 'Yo, get my gun,' " he recalled.Sanchez said the driver of the SUV, Fabio Coicou, drove away slowly in the direction of Bell but did not get into any more arguments. Isnora, who was standing next to Sanchez outside the club, followed Bell toward his car that was parked at the corner of Liverpool Street and 94th Avenue, Sanchez said, and an undercover van that Oliver was riding in drove to the intersection. The detective said he did not go after Coicou, who defense attorneys claim was a suspected pimp.Seconds later he heard gunfire as five of the officers opened fire after Bell rammed his Nissan Altima into the undercover van. Bell was killed while his two friends were wounded and then arrested, even though it was later determined none of them were armed. Last March, Oliver, who fired 31 shots, and Isnora, who fired 11, were charged with manslaughter while Cooper, who fired four shots, was charged with reckless endangerment for shooting Bell. The two other officers were not charged in the shooting.Prosecutors contended that the detectives were reckless and did not assess the situation, while the defense claimed that the detectives were defending themselves based on the information they had.Hugh Jensen, 31, of Jamaica, and Larenzo Kinred, 34, of Far Rockaway, two of Bell's friends who also celebrated the bachelor party at the strip club, testified last Thursday that they also saw Bell and Guzman get into an argument with Coicou.Jensen and Kinred said Guzman never said anything about getting a gun, but testified that they were suspicious of the driver who had one hand deep in his jacket pocket."Of course, I thought he had a gun. I didn't know what he had in his pocket," Jensen said when he was cross-examined by the defense.When the undercover van passed Jensen and Kinred on 94th Avenue, both men said they did not see badges on the passengers but had a feeling they were plainclothes officers."I see them every day in my neighborhood, so I could tell," Jensen told the defense.Napoli's testimony Friday supported the prosecution's claim when he said he never heard any of his officers identify themselves before they approached Bell's vehicle. Napoli, who was in another undercover vehicle a block away from the van, admitted that his team was not well prepared for that night's assignment, but was determined to make an arrest since they were on the verge of being disbanded.The NYPD's club initiative was shut down following the incident.Neville Mitchell, representing Bell's parents, blasted the officers' testimony during a news conference outside court following Monday's testimonies for focusing their efforts on Bell instead of Coicou."This man could have been stopped and Sean Bell could still be standing with us today," Mitchell said.

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