Police shoot three people near strip club in New York; man killed on day of his wedding
NEW YORK – Police opened fire early Saturday on a car full of men driving away from a bachelor party at a strip club, killing the groom on his wedding day after an undercover officer was rammed with the car.Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it was too early to say whether the shooting – 50 rounds were fired, hitting the vehicle 21 times – was justified. The deadly incident stemmed from an undercover operation inside the club, Kelly said.Kelly said the car also rammed into an unmarked police minivan. Seven officers in plain clothes were involved in the incident, but only five fired.The groom was identified as Sean Bell, 23. Two others in the car, Trent Benefield, 23, and Joseph Guzman, 31, were taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital. Kelly said there may have been a fourth person in the car who fled the scene.Several officers were injured in the incident, none seriously, Kelly said.Abraham Kamara, 38, who lives a few blocks from the club, said he was getting ready for work at about 4 a.m. when he heard bursts of gunfire.”First it was like four shots,” he said. “And then it was like pop-pop-pop like 12 times.”A grand jury was investigating the incident. Kelly said none of the officers who discharged weapons had been involved in previous police shootings. He has not been able to interview the officers because the district attorney must first complete an investigation, he said.The shooting drew angry protests from family members and the Rev. Al Sharpton.Sharpton went to the hospitals where the men were taken and afterward held news conferences. At Jamaica Hospital, the civil rights advocate stood with about two dozen members of Bell’s and his fiancee’s family.”I will stand with this family,” he said. “This stinks. Something about the story being told did not seem right.”Sharpton said Bell and his fiancee had two children, ages 3 years and 5 months.At Mary Immaculate Hospital, Sharpton said he was outraged to find the survivors handcuffed to their hospital beds. He said Guzman suffered 17 wounds, though it was unclear how many were bullet wounds, and Benefield was shot three times.”We’re not anti-police … we’re anti-police brutality,” he said.Robert Porter, who identified himself as Bell’s first cousin, said he was supposed to be a DJ at the wedding. He said about 250 people were invited and were flying in from all over the country. He said his cousin wasn’t the type to confront police and that he was “on the straight and narrow.””I still don’t want to believe it,” Porter said, “a beautiful day like this, and he was going to have a beautiful wedding, he was going to live forever with his wife and children. And this happened.”In 1999, police killed Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant who was shot 19 times in the Bronx. The four officers in that case were acquitted of criminal charges.And in 2003, Ousmane Zongo, 43, a native of the western African country of Burkina Faso who repaired art and musical instruments in the Manhattan warehouse, was shot to death during a police raid. Zongo was hit four times, twice in the back.—Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz, Tom Hays and Cristian Salazar contributed to this report.