The Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) that testified early this week in the case against the so-called “50-shot cops” on trial for the death of Sean Bell said they saw the detectives wearing their badges, despite earlier testimony from a supervising officer at the scene that none of the detectives identified himself as a cop.An undercover officer – actually inside the Club Kalua the night of November 25, 2006 – took the stand on Monday, March 3 to tell the court that he heard Joseph Guzman, wounded in the barrage, yell, “Yo, go get my gun,” at least twice, according to published reports.
Detective Hispolito Sanchez’s testimony that Bell and Guzman were nearly involved in an altercation with a man in an SUV could give credence to the claim by Detectives Marc Cooper, Gescard Isnora and Michael Oliver that Bell and his pals Guzman and Trent Benefield were armed.
“One of the critical points in this trial will be the credibility of the witnesses that testify,” said Michael Palladino on Wednesday, February 27. Palladino is President of the Detectives’ Endowment Association (DEA) and Vice President of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO).
According to court proceedings, the cops executing the sting that night, under the direction of Lieutenant Gary Napoli, focused on Bell’s party.Napoli, on modified duty in the almost year-and-a-half since, may also face charges for “failure to supervise his officers,” according to published reports.
The night of Bell’s death, he reportedly revved up his team, as they were close to closing the club, with a history of drugs and prostitution.
However, prosecutors are aiming to prove that Napoli’s supervision was fraught with errors. They claim Napoli, in a Toyota parked across the street, failed to assign the officers under his watch to specific duties, and that Isnora was the only cop of four to bring his gun.
Testimony continued that Isnora warned Napoli of a man in a baseball cap whom he believed to be armed.
Prosecutors allege that Napoli gave little if any information to his officers when they began tailing Bell, Guzman and Benefield.
“The story of how this tragedy occurred is a tale of carelessness, verging on incompetence,” prosecutor Charles Testagrossa said in published reports. “The preparation for the operation fell far short.”
Both Isnora and Oliver, who face up to 25 years in prison, have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges. Cooper, who may face a year in jail if convicted, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of reckless endangerment.