Hundreds Mourn Groom’s Killing

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(Chandler Windhal, in cap, shown with other angry brothers and sisters).

Hundreds of people came to Queens from every corner of New York City today to mourn the police shooting death of Sean Bell, an innocent young groom-to-be, killed hours before his wedding yesterday.

Most of those who gathered didn’t know Bell, but were united in grief and outrage. Many protestors recalled the shooting death a few years ago of Amadou Diallo, felled by 19 of 41 bullets fired at him. Police fired more than 50 bullets at Bell, who had come from a Queens club, celebrating his last night as a bachelor, with friends.

Hundreds vented anger outside Mary Immaculate Hospital where Bell’s surviving friends are being treated. Many called for boycotts of stores this holiday season to drive a message that Black people can’t be taken for granted while other demanded that police officers should live in the neighborhoods where they work.

It’s unknown how many of the 50 bullets shattered into Bell. Medical officials have not released the information, fearing it may provoke an uprising, one of the protestors, Sean Bryd, said. Police fired at least 50 bullets into the victims’ vehicle after they left the club. Many who gathered here today expressed deep anger. Some denounced police presence at the hospital saying it was fueling tension and hostility.

Police haven't adequately explained the shooting death--none of the victims was armed. Saturday was to have been the happiest day in Bell’s life; instead police bullets produced mayhem and mourning. His bride-to-be, Nicole Paultre, 21, is now left to bury him instead of trade vows. They were sweethearts since high school.

Survivor, Trent Benefield, 23, was shot three times and is recovering from a broken arm—he’s in stable condition. Shot 17 times, Joseph Guzman, 31, is in critical condition. Organizers of the rally such as Reverend Al Sharpton, politicians such as Senator Malcolm A. Smith and religious leaders Imam Charles Bilal visited with the victims and their family. Councilmember Charles Barron also came to support the family.

“I have children and I hope that if something was to happen to them that people would sympathize with me as well,� said Chandler Windhal, explaining why he had traveled from the Bronx to be here today.

“As a Black young man this makes me feel like a walking target,� said an angry Alexander Jefferson III, a resident of Jamaica, Queens, adding that the shooting showed the low value white people placed on Black lives. “Police are supposed to be here to protect us not be against us,� he said, adding the police are trained to “fear� Black people.

“We need not just Black police officers but officers to serve within the neighborhood in which they grew up in to create a sense of familiarity,� said Starr Granby Jr., referring to the fact that many White police officers on the New York Police Department live in the suburbs and not in the neighborhoods they patrol.

Living in the neighborhood where they serve would decrease the fear factor between law enforcement and the common citizens, she said. “I do not have anything against all cops, but they are human beings and I personally know some who are very racist,� added her mother, Starr Granby Sr., who said the incident has made her plan an all-male meeting at her private residence. She added that media was responsible for creating the image of fear and hostility towards Black males.

She recalled that her 17 year old son, who is a preacher, walking home one night when he was confronted by police and patted down, even though he was holding a bible. “I am so glad he did not attempt to pull it out to show the police that night because he also might have been a victim,� she added, alluding to the fact that years ago, the officers who gunned down Diallo claimed they thought he was reaching for a gun---it turned out to be a wallet with his identification card.

Diallo was relaxing in front of his home when killed in 1999, by officers Edward McMellon, Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy, who fired 41 times at him—all officers were later acquitted.

“I do not care what holiday you celebrate, we all do not need to spend a dime because it is the financial institutions that empower the police department,� declared Deborah Oya-Bakar, a member of The Katrina Advocacy Action Center.

State Senator Malcolm Smith called for a thorough investigation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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