Posted by: communitycop | March 8, 2008

DA expert witness’ testimony backfires in Bell case; says she tainted scene

Thursday, March 6th 2008, 11:06 AM

A prosecution expert witness undercut the case against the three cops accused of killing Sean Bell Wednesday by admitting she could have contaminated the shooting scene.

Detective Ellen Friedman, who specializes in finding guns concealed in cars, said she was not wearing protective gear – except for rubber gloves – when she used a screwdriver to pry open a door and remove an air bag.

She did the search before crime scene investigators finished searching Bell’s SUV.

“I didn’t take any precautions as to contaminating any bloodstains or any other evidence in the vehicle,” Friedman said, adding that she saw two spent shell casings beneath the driver’s seat during her search.

Friedman’s testimony was supposed to buttress prosecutors’ contention that Bell was killed on his wedding day by three trigger-happy detectives who fired 50 shots without letting the targets know they were police.

Instead, it laid the groundwork for the defense to argue that anything found in the car should be thrown out because proper procedures weren’t followed to protect the evidence.

Earlier, a Queens cop who was the first regular officer to arrive at the scene testified that the undercover detectives had their badges clearly displayed.

Officer Robert Maloney said one of the detectives “had his shield out around his neck and he was holding it in my direction. He had a firearm in his right hand. It was pointed down.”

Maloney, who admitted he didn’t arrive at the scene until several minutes after the shooting, said one of the undercovers told him, “I’m from narcotics. We have two perps shot.”

Maloney’s testimony came a day after NYPD Lt. Michael Wheeler, who also was called as a witness for the prosecution, testified he did not see any police identification displayed when he encountered Detective Marc Cooper – one of the cops on trial.

The lieutenant in charge of the undercover team, Gary Napoli, has also said he did not hear the detectives identify themselves as cops.

The other accused detectives are Gescard Isnora, who shot 11 times, and Michael Oliver, who fired 31 rounds – including the fatal shot. Cooper fired four times.

Sgt. Donald Kipp of the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica, who was in charge of collecting the guns from the detectives at the scene, testified that Oliver complained about “ringing in his ears.”

Bell, 23, was killed Nov. 25, 2006. His buddies Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman were badly wounded but survived the police bullets. The three men were at the Kalua Cabaret, a seedy Queens strip joint, for Bell’s bachelor party.

Defense lawyers say the detectives, who were at the club for a prostitution sting, began shooting after Bell rammed his car into their unmarked police van – and because they believed somebody in Bell’s car had a gun. It turned out the men were unarmed.

Oliver and Isnora face manslaughter charges. Cooper is charged with reckless endangerment.


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