Eight months after the police shooting of her fiancée Sean Bell on their wedding day, Nicole Paultre-Bell is still seeking justice for his death. On Tuesday, Paultre-Bell and two of Sean’s friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, who were wounded in the shooting, filed a wrongful death suit against the New York Police Department and the officers directly involved.
The suit accuses the police of negligence, civil rights violations and also blames the NYPD for not adequately supervising the officers. “At this point, the issue is getting justice,” said Paultre-Bell’s lawyer Sanford Rubenstein.
Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora have been indicted on manslaughter charges for the 50-round shooting of Bell and his two friends. A third detective, Marc Cooper, faces reckless endangerment charges.
Rubenstein said the outcome of the pending criminal case against the three officers— set to go to trial in September—is their main focus. He added that the wrongful death case will be delayed until the resolution of the criminal case.
“I think what they want to accomplish is that what happened to Nicole Bell—losing the man she was supposed to marry, the father of her two children, and the horrible injuries sustained (by his two friends)—not happen to anyone else,” Rubenstein said.
The events unfolded November 25, 2006, as Sean Bell and his friends left his bachelor party at a strip club in Queens. Undercover officials began to follow them, believing one of the three had a gun. As Sean tried to drive away, police said he hit a plain-clothed officer and an unmarked police van. The police then opened fire on the three unarmed men.
After her fiancée’s death, Paultre-Bell legally took his name and is now the guardian of their two children and Sean’s estate. Rubenstein said the wrongful death suit will be administered for the benefit of the two children.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nicole Paultre Bell
Sean, Nicole and daughter, Jada.