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Four of the officers who fired 50 shots at Sean Bell and his friends outside a Jamaica strip club and their partners are facing serious NYPD disciplinary charges, police officials said. Two crime scene detections were also cited.
Detectives Gescard Isnora, Michael Oliver, Marc Cooper and Officer Michael Carey were slapped with administrative charges Tuesday for opening fire at the Rockaway resident and his friends during the early morning hours on Nov. 25, 2006, according to the Police Department.
Isnora, Oliver and Cooper were acquitted April 25 in Queens Criminal Court on manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges in Bell's death. He was killed hours before he was going to get married.
Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, the union that represented the three detectives at the trial, said he would fight the charges.
"As we did in Queens Supreme Court, the DEA will vigorously represent our detectives in the department's trial room," he said in a statement.
Lt. Gary Napoli, commanding officer of the undercover team that was investigating suspected drug and prostitution operations at the Kalua Cabaret that night, and Sgt. Huey McNeal and Detective Robin Knapp, two crime scene detectives who were also working with the team that night, were also charged, according to the NYPD.
Detective Paul Headley who fired one shot that night was not hit with departmental charges. Police guidelines mandate that the charges had to be filed within 18 months of the incident.
Isnora saw Bell, 23, and his friends Trent Benefield, 24, and Joseph Guzman, 32, get into an argument outside the club and claimed he heard Guzman yell he was going to get a gun. As Isnora and his partners approached the three partygoers at the corner of Liverpool Street and 94th Avenue, Bell rammed his sedan into an undercover police van.
The officers opened fire, killing the bridegroom and seriously wounding his two friends. No gun was ever found.
Isnora, who fired 11 shots; Oliver, who fired 31 times and reloaded; and Cooper, who fired four times, were indicted in March 2007. Carey, who fired three times, Headley and the other members of their team were not criminally charged.
Although police officials did not give specifics of the departmental charges against the officers, the New York Post reported that Carey was charged with firing his weapon outside the NYPD's guidelines and Napoli was cited for failure of supervision.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the department would delay hearings pending a possible federal civil rights violation trial against the officers. Last week during a congressional hearing in Manhattan, U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said they would push federal prosecutors to try the detectives.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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