Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sean Bell Trial: 50 Shots and 50 Witnesses

It would have been nice if Sean Bell hadn’t been killed and was instead married to his wonderful fiancée Nicole. But death had other plans and, in the aftermath, the fate of three NYC police officers was put into the court docket. The three were acquitted Friday and everyone’s suitably pissed.

Naturally, there will be a second storyline to be played out in parallel to the real one. The cops are simply murderous, jumping to the racist conclusion that any person of color exiting a nightclub boisterously in the dark of Gotham must be a thug. The trumpeted line will note the “fifty bullets fired” as if gunfights were really very reasoned and well-thought-out strategies in which the police would have to re-load their six-shooters several times in order to bust that many caps.

A double-stack Glock 19 holds 19 and officers and everybody’s scared and no one knows where the shots are coming from so you act to protect your own life. Pow! Pow! Bam! Pow! Pow! Bam! Pow! Pow! Bam! Pow! Pow! Bam! And soon you have 50 shots. It’s very dangerous to all and sundry, to passersby and people living in the area, to lampshades and babies, and even to passing helicopters . Sean Bell was scared, so were his friends and enemies, and so were the cops. Everyone acted out of fear and Sean Bell got dead.

The prosecution brought 50 state witnesses to the case and conflict abound in the statement they made.

Some said there was an armed man present when the police began firing; others disputed that.

Some witnesses said that Bell had argued with a guy in a witness account about which other people said was a benign conversation.

Some witnesses changed their previous statements.

The police are not immune to criticism and investigation nor should they be. I would just like to know, however, that the critics know a little more about what they’re talking about. How would they defend themselves and their fellows? How would they respond to calls to nightclubs at 2:00 a.m. when the kids in the neighborhood are still up playing Grand Theft Auto Number 4 and some parents are on the rooftops getting lessons in gun control which, to them, means being able to hit your target even if it’s a cop or an innocent citizen.

I would like to hear some of the goofy theories from the critics about how perfectly they would react had they been in the cops shoes.

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