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Sean Bell’s killer cops will not be charged by U.S. Justice Dept.

February 17, 2010

Sean Bell, Nicole Paultre-Bell and their daughter, Jada
We can’t let this happen again; it’s ON US to get Oscar Grant’s killer cops convicted of murder! Minister of Information JR is hosting two events on two days, tonight in West Oakland and tomorrow in Los Angeles – details below

by Boyce Watkins, Ph.D.

Federal officials are not planning to pursue charges against the officers involved in the shooting death of Sean Bell, an unarmed young Black man who was set to be married later that day. The NYPD officers fired more than 50 shots into a car that held Bell and his friends, when the officers supposedly thought the men were retrieving a gun. No gun was ever recovered.

The officers were undercover, and the shooting sparked outrage throughout the Black community.

Prosecutors claim that there was “insufficient evidence” that Bell’s civil rights were violated. Three officers were acquitted in 2008, including Michael Oliver, an officer who reloaded his gun while shooting 31 of the 50 shots that went into the car.

Bell’s family and his fiance, Nicole Paultre-Bell, were saddened and disappointed by the decision. They’d asked federal officials to become involved after the original acquittal.

“Why didn’t they take a chance and go with a jury?” Bell’s father, William Bell, asked. “They say they didn’t have enough to go with the evidence. What kind of message are they sending kids? It’s open season. They can do whatever they want.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has advised the family on the matter, spoke with Attorney General Eric Holder about the incident.

“I expressed to him my extreme disappointment in the decision and our legal advisers saw the evidence and federal jurisdiction differently,” Sharpton said in a statement. “We agreed, however, that the family and community must continue to bring a new day in how we deal with police matters and how both community residents and police are protected equally under the law.”

What’s most interesting about the Sean Bell shooting is that while federal prosecutors are refusing to get involved in the case, there has been no serious explanation to the public regarding why the officers should not be charged. There is no conversation about what avenues of police discretion allow these officers to shoot dozens of bullets at unarmed citizens, reload their guns and continue firing. I want questions answered, and the idea that this case is going to come to an end without any closure for the American people is incredibly disturbing.

My father was a dedicated police officer for 25 years, which gave me an opportunity to see the inside of police work in ways that others cannot. I also speak regularly with civil rights leaders who speak up against police abuses of authority, which occur throughout our nation every single day.

I am also a Black man, and I’ve known the fear of police intimidation up close and looked in to the eyes of an angry, arrogant officer who felt that by simply talking back to him, I was somehow “stepping out of my place.”

Attorney General Eric Holder has consistently missed opportunities to address the broader problems of Black men in the criminal justice system. While African-American families are being consistently destroyed, Eric Holder, President Barack Obama and others are simply focused on keeping their jobs within a system that is (hopefully) not in line with their inner conscience.

Only radical action will change the consistent violation of Black civil rights taking place within our incredibly flawed system of justice, and our nation must be committed to that action.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce’s commentary delivered to your email, click here.

Don’t let Oscar Grant’s killer cops get away with murder

With today’s news that the U.S. Justice Department WILL NOT bring civil rights charges against the NYPD killers of Sean Bell on his wedding day in 2006, we know that it’s ON US to get Oscar Grant’s killer cops convicted of murder! Minister of Information JR is hosting two events in two days, tonight in West Oakland and tomorrow in Los Angeles:

  • Update on the Movement for Justice for Oscar Grant tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 6:30 p.m., at the Black Dot Café, 1195 Pine St., West Oakland, , featuring Jack Bryson, whose sons were with Oscar Grant when he was murdered;
  • Oscar Grant Town Hall tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m., at the Kaos Network, 4343 Leimert Blvd, Los Angeles, featuring Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant; Jack Bryson, whose two sons were with Oscar Grant when he was murdered; Keisha Brunston, the aunt of police murder victim Deandre Brunston; POCC Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., former political prisoner and son of the assassinated Black Panther leader; Dedon Kamathi, an organizer with the All African People’s Revolutionary Party and host of KPFK’s Freedom Now; Minister Keith Muhammad, the Nation of Islam minister at Mosque 26B in Oakland, and Thandisizwe Chimurenga of the Ida B. Wells Institute.

Minister of Information JR says, “Come through and be a part of the movement!” Also, all who can are urged to attend the pre-trial hearing in the murder case against the Oscar Grant trigger man, Johannes Mehserle, Friday, Feb. 19, 9 a.m., Superior Court, 210 W. Temple, Los Angeles.

7 thoughts on “Sean Bell’s killer cops will not be charged by U.S. Justice Dept.

  1. Marlon Crump

    The Department of Injustice’s decision does not surprise me, whatsoever. The divide and conquer conquest continues.

  2. junya

    The Justice Department’s concern for lives taken by police is made crystal clear on its website.

    Visit to see the long list of statistics collected by the department.

    Follow the link to the page describing the “Deaths in Custody Reporting Program”, that includes “quarterly records of all deaths during the process of arrest by each of the nation’s state and local law enforcement agencies”.

    Read the resultant boast of accomplishment: “Presents the first findings from the law enforcement collection of the Deaths in Custody Reporting Program (DCRP), which is the largest resource of information ever collected on arrest-related deaths.”

    Then look at the dates: 2003-2005. These “first findings” are also the last: four years later, and the Justice Department still has not published updated findings. The latest raw data (for 2006 – the year Sean Bell was murdered) shows that reported homicides by law enforcement – which remained essentially unchanged for the three previous years – rose nearly 20% in 2006. So the Justice Department response to a significant rise in reported killings by police has been to quietly stop reporting those killings. Those lives are not even worthy of a mere body count.

    President Obama’s concern for those lives is equally clear. When Sean Bell’s killers were acquitted, he expressed his concern over violence – not the actual violence of the police, but his imagined violence of the public’s response to unchecked murder by the state.

    And if we judge people by their deeds, not by their skin color, we would not be surprised that there’s been no change in the Justice Department under Eric Holder, the corporate lawyer and federal judge.

    When we truly understand that all agents and agencies of the government work not for our freedom, but to maintain control – through violence, intimidation, and indoctrination – then where else can we look for deliverance but ourselves?

  3. R.L.

    it is unfortunate that not only blacks,hispanics and asians are being targeted but young people in general and many times just because some cop decides that the young people shouldn,t be where they are or other such bull. The police have been taking advantage of thier position in our communities for a very long time and sidestepping criminal charges for hate crimes and discrimination. I am White and have been poor most of my life and grew up in Sacramento, Ca. and have been the victim of such treatment at the hands of the police and sherriff,s dept there. it is way past time that the justice dept. be forced to take action and force those that use a badge to commit crimes to answer for them.

  4. Michael Lofton

    RE: "Sean Bell’s killer cops will not be charged by U.S. Justice Dept." by Dr. Boyce Watkins, February 17, 2010

    Dr. Boyce…..

    From the beginning, instead of pursuing this from a Federal civil rights lawsuit angle, why hasn't a wrongful death civil lawsuit for damages been filed by one or more Black civil attorneys in behalf of the heirs of Sean Bell in the lower courts, i.e. New York City local/county court system, New York City and the New York Police Department, since this is the court jurisdiction where this took place?

  5. Michael Lofton

    When there are no financial penalties on the back end to hold agents and officials of government accountable it will be business as usual, namely the perpetrators will escape with impunity. Case in point, regarding the Killer King/Martin Luther King Hospital atrocities, the Rampart Scandal, LA County Sheriff's Department corruption as this pertains to numerous incidents of policing abuses, and unethical City prosecutor abuses, numerous megabuck civil lawsuits for damages filed by the victims and his or her legal representatives to hold agents and officials accountable has resulted in major reforms.

  6. Michael Lofton

    If enough megabuck claims for damages are filed against a municipality, unethical public servants are forced to resign, make restitution, and deep pocket city government pay out millions in redress of taxpayer's dollars. Since most taxpayer's resent having their tax dollars being used for this purpose, the elected officials who hold office in the jurisdiction are pressured to make major reforms, even if this means firing police officers, unethical city prosecutors, or as this pertains to Killer King Hospital, firing Doctors, Nurses, Hospital Administrators, and closing the Killer King/Butcher King Hospital.

  7. Michael Lofton

    It would behoove Black lawyers and Black elected officials to be competent in practicing civil law to seek redress in the local jurisdiction courts. Finally, Black men, women, and the Black community must do more to reduce the unemployment rate in the Black community to curtail criminal activity. It is pointless to file any claim against a policing agency, the City of New York, any other City jurisdiction, or any other entity if the plaintiff(s) are also involved in criminal activity too.


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