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Community center honors Bell

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The family of Sean Bell and supporters marched eight blocks Sunday from the site of where the slain bridegroom was killed to the site of a new community center established in his name that is expected to be up and running by next month.

Anthony Anderson, managing director of the Sean Elijah Bell Community Center, said the facility is the culmination of 2 1/2 years of planning.

Bell was killed in a hail of 50 police bullets in the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2006, outside Club Kalua, where he was having his bachelor party. Two of his friends were wounded.

Plainclothes and undercover detectives, who were investigating drugs at the club, thought Bell was armed when they shot at him, but a probe´╗┐ determined Bell did not have a gun.

Bell’s father, William Bell, said the center is something that his son could have seen himself working at if he were still alive because he loved children.

“We always wanted to help the community, regardless of what happened to my son, but that gave us more drive to do it,” William Bell said. “He was a good man, determined and very direct. He was a good young man, for the most part.”

A judge trial acquitted the three officers involved in the shooting, which prompted outrage in southeast Queens.

Anderson said the center will conduct job readiness classes, counseling and social services from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and hold after-school and mentoring programs, tutoring and computer access for school research from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The center, at 107-52 Sutphin Blvd., is scheduled to open June 13.

Shawn Williams, a crime victims’ advocate from LeFrak City and Bell family supporter, said the community center is a welcome addition to southeast Queens.

The Bell family is “trying to bridge the community with love,” said Williams.

Joseph Guzman, who was injured in the Bell shooting, came out to support the family and still had a brace on his left leg as a reminder of the incident.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” he said of the community center.

The march included The Elite Marching Band of Rochdale Village, with members beating their drums from Sean Bell Way — Liverpool Street — and 94th Avenue until they reached the community center as passersby shot videos from their cell phones along the march route.

City Comptroller John Liu, who was among the elected officials to participate in the march, praised the family for setting up the community center.

“The Bell family and supporters across the city have made a mission to not let Sean’s death go in vain, and from the outset they committed themselves to remembering Sean and no better way to do so than open a community center meant to bring people together,” Liu said. “Almost five years later, the memory of Sean is still fresh and will live on in this community center and many other ways.”

Les Paultre, father of Bell’s fiancee, said the center “is a great thing for the community.”

“Our main mission is to keep Sean Bell’s name alive, show the community how positive we are and how passionate we are,” he said.

Paultre said the neighborhood “will get to see who Sean really was and not how he was depicted by the prosecutors.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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