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Fiancée waiting after judge calls for Bell shooter’s badge

Sean Bell's mother Valerie (from l.), his fiancée, Nicole Paultre-Bell, and her mother, Laura Paultre, talk among themselves before discussing a commissioner's recommendation to fire one of the officers who opened fire at the bridegroom. Photo by Ivan Pereira
TimesLedger Newspapers

For the last five years, Nicole Paultre-Bell has yearned for justice in the 50-shot shooting that took her fiance’s life, but after an NYPD judge called for the removal ofé the undercover police officer who fired, the teary-eyed mother of two said her calls were answered at a bittersweet price.

“If I had a chance to speak with him, I would let him know he caused so much pain,” she said of Detective Gescard Isnora.

The final word on the officer’s fate, however, comes down to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who had not made a decision about Deputy Commissioner Martin Karopkin’s ruling by press time Tuesday.

Paultre-Bell, who talked about the Nov. 30 decision at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network offices in Harlem last Thursday, said she is most disappointed that the five officers who killed Sean Bell and seriously wounded his two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, were never incarcerated for their roles and were still on the force.

“They didn’t show any honor or dignity to Sean, Trent and Joe,” she said.

The judge’s decision capped the latest development in the Nov. 25, 2006 case.

Isnora, who fired 11 shots during the early morning incident in Jamaica, and his partner Michael Carey, who fired three shots, were tried at an internal Police Department procedure to determine whether they violated police guidelines during the shooting.

Bell was celebrating his bachelor party the night before his wedding at the Kalua Cabaret, which was being investigated by undercover police officers for suspected drug and prostitution operations.

Isnora claimed he saw Guzman get into an argument outside the club during the early morning hours and heard Bell’s friend say he was going to get a gun. The detective called for backup and followed Bell, Guzman and Benefield to the corner of Liverpool Street and 94th Avenue, where Bell had his car parked, and soon an unmarked police van pulled up to the bridegroom’s sedan.

Bell rammed the police van and Isnora, Carey, Michael Oliver, Marc Cooper and Paul Headley opened fire at the car, killing Bell instantly and seriously wounding the other two men. No weapon was ever found.

The judge ruled that Carey should not be removed from the force, but he found that Isnora acted recklessly by not only opening fire but by also dropping his undercover persona when he was pursuing Bell and his entourage.

Oliver, who fired 31 shots and reloaded, and Marc Cooper, who fired four shots, were acquitted on manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges and are both negotiating with the department to retire instead of facing a departmental trial, according to the Detectives Endowment Association. Carey, who fired three times, and Headley, who fired once and has left the force, were not criminally charged.

Queens Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman acquitted the three indicted officers in a bench trial in the spring of 2008.

Bell’s mother, Valerie, praised Karopkin’s decision because she said to this day she cannot believe the officers were found not guilty in criminal court.

“The [NYPD] judge should have been the judge in the criminal case,” she said.

The Detectives Endowment Association did not return phone calls asking for comment.

Paultre-Bell, the mother of Bell’s two daughters, Jada, 8, and Jordan, 5, said she would like to meet with the commissioner before he makes his decision, but said her faith has led her to believe that the officers will pay for their actions by a higher authority.

“Detective Isnora, you started this, but it’s not over,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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