It’s been nearly four years since Sean Bell was killed in a hail of 50 police bullets – and his two friends injured – and now a settlement has awarded his estate $3.25 million.
On Tuesday, July 27, a judge in Brooklyn Federal Court also gave $3 million to Joseph Guzman, struck 11 times; and $900,000 to Trent Benefield, who was shot three times in the legs and buttock that fateful night in November 2006.
“It’s a fair and reasonable settlement,” said attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who said the focus must now shift to Albany and the passing of the so-called Sean Bell package of legislation, which would require mandatory alcohol and drug testing of police officers statewide if they discharge their weapons, as well as increased funding for police training and more.
Hours before he was to wed his fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell – the mother of his two daughters who has since taken his name – Bell was shot and killed outside the Club Kalua in Jamaica, where undercover officers Detective Gescard F. Isnora, Detective Michael Oliver and Police Officer Michael Carey were conducting a sting.
The events that followed remain unclear, but Oliver and Carey fired on Bell’s Nissan Altima after Isnora started shooting and were joined by Detectives Marc Cooper and Paul Headley, who were nearby in an unmarked car.
By the time the shooting spree ended, police had fired 50 rounds at the three men. Bell was shot four times in the right arm and neck. The shot to his neck perforated his larynx, while another bullet perforated his liver and right lung. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital.
In 2008, Oliver, Cooper and Isnora were acquitted of manslaughter and reckless endangerment and were not prosecuted for civil rights violations.
“The Sean Bell shooting highlighted the complexities our dedicated officers must face each day,” said Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel, New York City Law Department. “The city regrets the loss of life in this tragic case, and we share our deepest condolences with the Bell family. The city is also settling claims with Mr. Guzman and Mr. Benefield. We hope that all parties can find some measure of closure by this settlement.”
“[The settlement] provides economic security for the kids, but nothing will bring their father back,” said Rubenstein. “It’s a tragedy – there are no words to describe the grief of Nicole and the kids.”