Daily News columnist and Democracy Now! co-host.
In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we air for the first time surveillance footage connected to the shooting of Sean Bell. The video from the Port Authority’s Jamaica Avenue Air Train station reveals that one of the bullets fired by the five cops at Sean Bell and his friends narrowly missed striking a civilian and two Port Authority patrolmen who were standing on the station’s elevated platform. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive. We air for the first time surveillance footage connected to the shooting of Sean Bell. Bell was the unarmed African-American man killed by undercover police in a hail of 50 bullets in Queens, New York, two weeks ago. He died hours before he was supposed to be married, and two of his friends were seriously wounded.
This footage is from two surveillance cameras at the Port Authority’s Jamaica Avenue Air Train station, which is a half a block away from the shooting site. The video reveals that one of the bullets fired by the five cops narrowly missed striking a civilian and two Port Authority patrolmen who were standing on the station’s elevated platform.
One video shows a bullet shattering a window in the station and then nearly hitting the man. The second video shows two police officers scrambling for cover inside the station after the shot was fired. The content of the video was first revealed in the New York Daily News by Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez, but it has never been aired before.
In a moment, we’ll be joined by Bishop Erskine Williams. He’s the Bishop of the New Seasons Family Worship Center in Queens and a pastor for the families of Sean Bell’s two injured friends. But first, we turn to co-host Juan Gonzalez. Juan, explain the significance of this video footage.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I think one of the things it shows, number one, is that there were a lot more people in danger that night by this shooting, the 50-shot barrage of the police officers at the scene, five cops at the scene, plainclothes and undercover. There had been a report that there had been at least one errant bullet, and I think Graham Weatherspoon — he was on this show also —- talked about one that went into a home and hit a lamp. But it turns out that this particular bullet that went to the Air Train, which was -—
AMY GOODMAN: And this is the train to the plane, to Kennedy Airport.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, the Port Authority’s train to the plane. And the Jamaica station is right down Liverpool Street, where the shooting occurred about half a block away from the shooting. And also, it’s an elevated station, so these bullets had to travel from the ground up, considerably up, in the air to reach the platform of the elevated station.
And the video that was made available to me by a source shows there’s a Port Authority police — two cameras. And it shows, as we saw in the video, that one elderly gentleman with his luggage was — the bullet almost hit him in the head, because you actually see the trail of the bullet shattering the glass and right at the eye level of the man, right in front of him. And he drops his luggage and runs. And the two Port Authority police nearby scampered away. One actually has filed for a line-of-duty injury.
And the calmest person in the video is apparently a Transportation Safety Agency employee, who is also waiting for the train, I guess, to go — a TSA agent to go to Kennedy. And he hears the shots, and he turns calmly around and looks to see what’s happening. But everyone else is terrified on the train, including the two police who thought they were being attacked.
They then radioed to their command that they were being fired upon, because they were not on the same radio frequency as the police department, so they had no idea what was going on just downstairs.
AMY GOODMAN: And you see them running down, and then one slips and falls.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Right, one slips and falls. He’s the one who filed for line-of-duty injury, as a result of his slip.
AMY GOODMAN: For our radio listeners, you can go to our website at democracynow.org, and you will be able to see the footage that we have been describing right now. Again, from two vantage points, two — it looks like — two Port Authority cameras.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Two separate cameras that were on the platform, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you also have been reporting about — and there is a police report on the so-called fourth person.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Right. Well, I reported in the Daily News this week that — there’s been a lot of talk ever since the shooting that there was allegedly a fourth person who tried to either get into or out of Sean Bell’s car just before police opened fire and who may have had a gun. And in fact, for a while police forces were actually identifying someone that they had picked up as, quote, the "fourth man," because this would be very important, because if there was a fourth person with a gun, then the police officers who fired would have more justification for this incredible number of shots that they fired, if they thought they were really being attacked by someone with a gun.
Well, I reported in the Daily News that all of the radio dispatches that were issued that night immediately after the shooting by the police at the scene, the cops who fired, as well as the conversations between authorities, never mentioned a fourth man, never mentioned someone with a gun had escaped from the scene. The police never conducted a manhunt for a fourth man, so that this, quote, "fourth man" really develops subsequently, but at the scene, which is the most important time for any investigator, the moments after an event like this, nobody ever mentioned a fourth man. And in addition, there were all kinds of communications lapses among the nine cops, because there were a total of nine plainclothes and undercover cops at the scene.
AMY GOODMAN: Plainclothes cops in the Kalua nightclub, where Sean and his two friends were having a bachelor party?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Right. There was a bachelor party going on, and there was actually a surveillance team. Not all of the police went into the club. A total of three, according to the police reports, entered the club at any one time. And the others were back-up teams that were supposed to come in if they had found any illegal activity or conducted any arrests. There was a back-up van to hold prisoners. And that was the van that actually collided with Sean Bell’s car. And so that there was a total of nine police officers at the scene, total. But there were communications lapses between them. One car with two female officers, when the shooting started, actually traveled quite a bit of distance away from the scene and were totally —
AMY GOODMAN: Oblivious to all of this?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, they didn’t know what was going on. They were lost. They couldn’t tell the radio dispatchers where they were, the exact location of where they were. And so there were all kinds of problems with the management and the operation of that team, apparently, from the initial reports that I’ve been able to be briefed on.