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Nicole Paultre Bell Leads Vigil to Mark One-Year Since Police Shooting of Her Unarmed Fiancé Sean Bell

StoryNovember 21, 2007
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On the eve of their wedding day, Nicole Paultre Bell lost her fiancé Sean Bell in a police shooting. The unarmed Bell was killed in a hail of fifty police bullets as he left his bachelor party. Paultre Bell will lead a vigil this Saturday to mark one year since her fiancé’s killing. She joins us to talk about the vigil and her lawsuit against the New York Police Department. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Police Department is coming under renewed criticism this week after a police officer shot dead two unarmed men in Brooklyn. On November 12th, eighteen-year-old Khiel Coppin died in a hail of twenty police bullets. He was carrying only a hairbrush. Coppin’s mother called the police for help, following a violent argument with her son. Coppin reportedly had a history of mental illness, and she told — his mother told the police that he was not armed. Days later, police in Brooklyn shot dead a mentally ill man named David Kostovski. Police say he threatened them with a broken wine bottle and that he was a suspect in an earlier stabbing.

The pair of police killings come nearly a year to the day of the fatal shooting of Sean Bell on his wedding day. On November 25th of last year, New York police fired a hail of fifty bullets at a car carrying the twenty-three-year-old African American man as he left his bachelor party. His friends Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman were also shot, but they survived. None of the men were armed.

Earlier this year, Sean Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, filed a civil lawsuit accusing the police department and all five officers involved in the shooting of negligence, recklessness and civil rights violations. Three of the officers also face criminal charges. Their trial is scheduled to begin in February.

This weekend, friends and family of Sean Bell plan to hold an overnight vigil to mark the first anniversary of his death.

Sean Bell’s fiancée Nicole Paultre Bell joins us here in our — joins us on the telephone. The Bell family attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, also joins us on the phone.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Nicole, tell us about your plans for this weekend.

NICOLE PAULTRE BELL: Well, good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us.

NICOLE PAULTRE BELL: This weekend, Saturday night, I plan to lead a vigil, beginning at 10:00 PM, at the site where it happened, which is Liverpool in — Liverpool Street in Jamaica between 94th and 95th Streets, where we’ll gather together, friends and family, and have prayer and bring to light what happened to Sean and just let it be known that this is not forgotten. And we’re going to do what we have to do, you know, to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other families. But this will begin 10:00 PM ’til 5:00 AM in the morning. And then we’ll march to a local church, where Reverend Al Sharpton will be presiding service.

AMY GOODMAN: Three of the officers were charged, Nicole — Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora charged with manslaughter, Detective Marc Cooper charged with reckless endangerment. Your response to those indictments?

NICOLE PAULTRE BELL: Well, nothing will ever bring me, I would say — nothing will ever — nothing will ever bring me back Sean, I have to say, so it’s really little comfort for anything. I do deserve justice. Sean deserves justice, justice for what happened to Joe, what happened to Trent. So, whatever happens, it will bring me little comfort, but as long as justice is being done, it’s the right thing to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Sanford Rubenstein, the question of the trial in February, is it actually February 4th that it has been set for?

SANFORD RUBENSTEIN: That’s correct. The trial of the three police officers, two of which are detectives, will begin February 4th, with jury selection in Queens County.

AMY GOODMAN: February 4th, Nicole, is the anniversary — what is it — the ninth anniversary of the shooting of Amadou Diallo under a hail of forty police bullets. Your response to that?

NICOLE PAULTRE BELL: Well, it’s just — when this happened, his mom reached out to us, and it felt good. I got my strength from people in the community supporting me. So, you know, it’s unfortunate that any of this had to happen, but it just — it needs to stop. And hopefully, it does, and this is the end of it.

AMY GOODMAN: Sanford Rubenstein, the defense may request a change of venue from Queens. Your response?

SANFORD RUBENSTEIN: Well, first of all, the people of Queens can be fair and impartial in a criminal trial, and this case should be tried in Queens. The terrible tragedy that occurred occurred in Queens, and that’s where the trial should be. And there’s no reason to change venue in this case. The district attorney, Mr. Brown, has indicated that he will oppose strenuously any attempt to change venue, and so will the community. We feel that the people of Queens would be insulted if an attempt to change venue were to take place, because it would demonstrate a lack of confidence in their ability to be fair and impartial. I believe they can be fair and impartial and will be fair and impartial, and as Nicole has said very clearly, what the family is looking for, Joe and Trent, is justice.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Post saying a mystery man who argued with Sean Bell’s bachelor party just minutes before police unloaded a hail of bullets at the groom and his two pals, now a witness for the Queens DA’s office. The significance of this, Sanford Rubenstein?

SANFORD RUBENSTEIN: Well, that’s something that the Queens DA will deal with appropriately at the trial. The prosecution is being conducted by the people, by the district attorney’s office, and we have confidence in that office to try this case and get justice.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Sanford Rubenstein, attorney for Nicole Paultre Bell, and Nicole Paultre Bell herself, the fiancée of Sean Bell, who was killed a year ago in a hail of fifty police bullets in Queens.

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