Nearly five years after Sean Bell was killed on his wedding day, his former fiancée, Nicole Paultre-Bell, said it was a “nightmare” to sit through a police disciplinary trial that rehashed the details of the night he was gunned down by police.
"It can get overwhelming," Bell, 27, said on Tuesday outside the hearing at police headquarters in Manhattan. "But this is in Sean’s memory."
The departmental trial will determine the fate of Detective Gescard Isnora’s and police officer Michael Carey’s jobs. They were among the five officers who fired 50 bullets into a car in which the unarmed Bell, then 23, and his two friends got into after leaving a Queens strip club on November 25, 2006.
Isnora and Carey are accused of failing to follow the NYPD guidelines in firing their weapons. Isnora was additionally charged with violating the protocol which determines when an undercover officer should take action.
"If you make a mistake, if you don’t follow the guidelines, if life of an innocent person is taken away, you should be punished," Bell said. "No one is above the law."
On Tuesday, Inspector Michael Hurley, of the Firearm Review Board, which looked into the shooting, testified that the officers failed to follow the guidelines when shooting at Bell’s car. He also said they didn’t face “imminent threat” at the time and “unnecessarily endangered” persons.
Isnora and detectives Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper were acquitted of the charges of manslaughter in April 2008 in State Supreme Court in Queens. Carey, who fired three times, only faces departmental charges.
Similarly to Isnora’s defense in the criminal case, his lawyer, Philip Karasyk, has argued that his client believed Bell or his friends were planning to get a gun, come back to the club and retaliate against the people they had argued with earlier.
Bell, who was joined by Reverend Al Sharpton for about an hour on Tuesday, said this disciplinary trial, to a large extent, feels like “déjà vu” of the criminal trial, compounding the difficulty of dealing with various processes over the years.
The U.S. Department of Justice looked into the case before deciding last year that there was “insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against NYPD officers.”
Nicole, who took the name Bell after Sean’s death, has two daughters — Jada, 9, and Jordyn, 5 — with Sean. The city settled the civil lawsuit and paid out more than $7 million to Bell’s family and his two friends in the car.
While going through another trial is taking a toll, Bell said, she is ready to go through this final step.
“I vowed at the beginning that I would stay until the end,” she said.