A grand jury reached a decision Friday to indict at least three of the five New York City police officers involved in the fatal Sean Bell shooting, according to the officers’ attorneys. The official verdicts, however, will remain sealed until Queens District Attorney Richard Brown releases them on Monday.
Bell died in the early morning of what was supposed to have been his wedding day on November 25. Two other men, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, were seriously injured during the shooting, in which a total of 50 rounds were fired. All three Black men were unarmed.
The officers charged have been identified as Gescard Isnora, the undercover officer who was the first to shoot and fired 11 times; Detective Michael Oliver, who fired 31 times; and Detective Marc Cooper, who fired four times. The charges have not been disclosed.
“The victims are encouraged by what they have heard,” Sanford Rubenstein, attorney for Benefield and Guzman, told ESSENCE. “They will be at Reverend Sharpton’s headquarters in Harlem to listen to the district attorney’s press conference on Monday at 11 when he unseals the indictments.”
The grand jury began hearing testimony from Benefield and Guzman, the officers involved, Bell’s fiancée Nicole Paultre Bell, and other witnesses in January. They had just begun deliberating the evidence on Wednesday when a last-minute witness stepped forward, claiming that he saw a gunman shoot at the officers moments before the police opened fire. He was allowed to testify on Thursday.
The three men were leaving Bell’s bachelor party at a Queens strip club on the day of the shooting. Benefield and Guzman have maintained that, as they started to drive away in Bell’s car, the plainclothes officers opened fire without identifying themselves as police. They have also said that the car was barely moving when the officers shot.
Police officials have said that the officers thought the men had a gun at the time. They claim that Isnora held up his shield before shooting and that Bell struck him with the car. They have also alleged that a fourth man shot at them before fleeing the scene.
“The victims are still praying for justice,” Rubenstein said, as they anxiously await a trial. “We ask that you pray over the weekend.”
Stay with Essence.com for more information following Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown’s Monday press conference.