No Federal Charges Filed in Bell Shooting

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Five New York City Police officers will not face civil rights charges in the 2006 shooting death of Sean Bell, the U.S. Justice Department announced February 16.

Bell, 23, was shot leaving his bachelor party at a strip club in the early morning hours of November 25, 2006, his wedding day.

A review of the case by the FBI, Justice Department officials, and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York did not find sufficient evidence that the officers had willfully acted to deny Bell and two friends their constitutional rights, the department said in a statement.

“Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence, nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation,” the department said in the statement.

According to reports, Bell and two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, got into an altercation with plainclothes detectives. The incident led Detectives Gescard Isnora, Michael Oliver, Marc Cooper and Paul Headley and Officer Michael Carey to fire 50 shots into the vehicle Bell was driving, killing him and wounding Guzman and Benefield. None of the victims were armed.

In a May 2008 protest of the shooting, Bell’s fiancée and his parents were arrested. Bell’s family hopes to urge the White House to draw more attention to police brutality against minorities.

“There is a history of black men being killed by police officers, and something needs to be done,” Nicole Paultre Bell, Bell‘s fiancée, told The New York Times. “We’re hoping to eventually meet with President Obama, and that he’ll do something, because this is a national problem.”

Lawyers of the victims said civil charges will be filed against the five officers, who still face an internal review by the NYPD.