Bachelor Party Shooting Sparks Questions

Sean Bell and his fiancee Nicole Paultre in an undated family photo. AP/Family Photo via The Daily News

New York's mayor and police commissioner are planning to meet with city leaders on Monday to discuss Saturday's shooting outside a strip club in Queens. One man was killed and two others injured after they left a bachelor's party at a strip club. The dead man was to have been married later that day.

A police spokesman says five of the officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave as an investigation into the incident proceeds.

The men were unarmed, but police say the car in which they were riding hit an undercover police officer and an unmarked police minivan. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says it's unclear whether the officers had identified themselves as police or what exactly prompted them to open fire.

A crowd, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, held a rally Sunday outside the hospital where one of the men is in critical condition.

At a vigil and the rally the day after 23-year-old Sean Bell was supposed to have married the mother of his two young children, a crowd led by the black civil rights leader shouted "No justice, no peace."

At one point, the crowd of a few hundred counted off to 50, the number of rounds fired.

"We cannot allow this to continue to happen," Sharpton said at the gathering outside Mary Immaculate Hospital, where one of the wounded men was in critical condition. "We've got to understand that all of us were in that car."

Some in the crowd called for the ouster of Kelly, yelling "Kelly must go."


The police officers' group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care said it was issuing a vote of no confidence in Kelly over the shooting.

Paul Browne, chief spokesman for the NYPD, said Sunday: "We are continuing to look for additional witnesses to shed light on the incident, and assisting the district attorney's office with its investigation."

The shootings occurred at about 4 a.m. Saturday outside the Kalua Cabaret, a strip club where Bell's bachelor party was held. The survivors were Joseph Guzman, 31, who was shot at least 11 times, and Trent Benefield, 23, who was hit three times. Guzman was in critical condition Sunday and Benefield was stable.

Relatives of all three men — many of them stoic, and some crying — attended Sunday's vigil but none spoke publicly.

The car, driven by Bell, was struck by 21 of the police bullets after the vehicle rammed an undercover officer and hit an unmarked NYPD minivan. Other shots hit nearby homes and shattered windows at a train station, though no one else was injured.

Police thought one of the men in the car might have had a gun but investigators found no weapons. It was unclear what prompted police to open fire, Kelly said.

Kelly said the confrontation stemmed from an undercover operation inside the strip club in the Jamaica section of Queens. Seven officers in plain clothes were investigating the Kalua Cabaret; five of them were involved in the shooting.

According to Kelly, the groom was involved in a verbal dispute outside the club and one of his friends made a reference to a gun.

An undercover officer walked closely behind Bell and his friends as they headed for their car. As he walked toward the front of the vehicle, the car drove forward — striking the officer and a nearby undercover police vehicle, Kelly said.

The officer who had followed the group on foot was apparently the first to open fire, Kelly said. That officer had served on the force for five years. One 12-year veteran fired his weapon 31 times, emptying two full magazines, Kelly said.

Bell backed the car onto a sidewalk, hitting a building gate, authorities said. He then drove forward, striking the police vehicle a second time, Kelly said.

The police department's policy on shooting at moving vehicles states: "Police officers shall not discharge their firearms at or from a moving vehicle unless deadly force is being used against the police officers or another person present, by means other than a moving vehicle."

In 1999, NYPD officers killed Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant who was shot 19 times in the entry to his apartment building. The four officers in that case were acquitted of criminal charges. In 2003, Ousmane Zongo, 43, a native of the western African country of Burkina Faso, was killed during a police raid on a warehouse where he repaired art and musical instruments. Zongo was shot four times, twice in the back.

  • Lloyd Vries

Comments