A new community center erected in the name of Sean Bell, the unarmed groom-to-be who was killed in a fusillade of police bullets nearly five years ago, is scheduled to open today.
Bell’s parents, Valerie and William, are expected to march Friday from the intersection now known as Sean Bell way in Jamaica to the ceremonial opening of the Sean Elijah Bell Community Center on Sutphin Boulevard, reports the Daily News.
The center, which will offer mentoring, GED and tutoring programs for children and adolescents, as well as job-training referral programs for adults, is expected to be fully operational by June.
The nonprofit center, which is expected to serve up to 5,000 locals annually, was funded by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, Anthony Anderson, managing director of the project, told the News.
“It’s something that’s well needed in the community,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of kids hanging out on the streets because there’s nowhere to go.”
Sean Bell was killed just hours before his wedding when undercover cops opened fire as Bell and his friends left a strip club after a bachelor party in November 2006. The cops had been investigating reports of prostitution at the club, and apparently misheard the group’s conversation and thought one had a gun. Detectives fired 50 bullets, killing Bell. No gun was found.
The shooting sparked massive outcry across the nation, with civil-rights advocates leading protests and demanding what they perceived to be justice for the detectives who shot and killed Bell.
The three detectives were acquitted of manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges in 2008. The Department of Justice declined to prosecute federal civil rights charges, saying there was “insufficient evidence” to proceed.