City Settles Sean Bell Civil Case for Millions - NBC New York

City Settles Sean Bell Civil Case for Millions



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    Family photo
    Sean Bell and his fiancee Nicole Paultre.

    The city has settled a civil lawsuit over the infamous 50-bullet police shooting of Sean Bell for more than $7 million.

    A Brooklyn magistrate approved the deal which gives $3.25 million to the estate of Bell -- the unarmed man fatally shot by police officers on his wedding day.  His two friends -- injured in the hail of bullets outside a Queens stripclub in November 2006 -- will divide the rest of the money: $3 million for Joseph Guzman and $900,000 for Trent Benefield.

    As a condition of the settlement, the city doesn't admit any wrongdoing.

    "I think the settlement was fair but what's most important is that our fight doesn't end," said Nicole Paultre Bell, the mother of Bell's two children, who has been advocating for police reforms in the wake of the shooting.

    "There is no amount of money that can equal the pain that my family and that his family, Mr. and Mrs. Bell, have felt,"  she added.

    Guzman, who still has four bullets in his body and walks with a cane, said he doubted that the settlement would bring change.

    "I don't think a black or Hispanic man's life means much in New York city" said Guzman.  "And it's a matter of time before this happens again, and the police will be the ones doing the shooting and they'll get away with it again."

    Three detectives, Michael Oliver, Marc Cooper and Gescard Isnora, were acquitted of manslaughter and other charges in a 2008 trial and federal authorities this February declined to bring civil rights charges against them. Their union leader, Michael Palladino, blasted the multimillion settlement  as "absurd," saying that the "intoxicated" Bell tried to run over the detectives.

    "Cops were exonerated in a court of law and a federal review, yet tax payers are on the hook for seven million dollars," he said.

    Family advocate and National Action Network president Al Sharpton, said he "respected and deferred" to the victims' judgement in accepting the settlement.

    "They must all provide for their families but this in no way mitigates or repairs the permanent damage done to them and the pain it has caused them forever nor does it diminish the outrage in the community," said Sharpton.

    Bell was killed outside a Jamaica, Queens bar on November 25. 2006 while leaving his bachelor party on what would have been his wedding day.  The police shooting sparked a massive outcry across the nation, with civil-rights advocates leading protests and demanding convictions for the detectives who shot and killed Bell.

    Bell, Guzman and Benefield were leaving the Club Kalua after the bachelor's party when undercover cops investigating reports of prostitution at the club apparently misheard their conversation and thought one had a gun.

    No weapon was found.

    "The Sean Bell shooting highlighted the complexities our dedicated officers must face each day," said NYC Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo in a statement. "The City regrets the loss of life in this tragic case, and we share our deepest condolences with the Bell family.   We hope that all parties can find some measure of closure by this settlement."