March 8 2008 NY1 News All Morning
A retired NYPD detective who collected evidence at the scene of the Sean Bell police shooting delivered testimony Thursday that contradicts another officer’s account of the events.
Detective David Rivera testified for more than seven hours Thursday as prosecutors entered into evidence dozens of items he collected, from shell casings to baseball hats.
Rivera’s statements cast some doubt on the testimony of Lieutenant Gary Napoli, the commanding officer the night Bell was shot. Napoli said last week he did not see the shooting because he was reaching for a bubble light to identify his car as a police vehicle.
But Rivera testified he never found the light in Napoli’s car.
The prosecution showed the court more than 100 photos of Bell’s car and the surrounding neighborhood, including dramatic photos of the passenger side of car where Bell’s friend Joseph Guzman was sitting at the time of the shooting. The door was riddled with what appeared to be more than a dozen bullet holes.
Officers have said they thought Guzman had a gun, but no gun was ever found at the scene.
Prosecutors also presented photos of a nearby house hit by one of the bullets. A shot fired by Detective Michael Oliver went through an open window and lodged in a lamp. Other were presented as evidence of other bullets that had gone far astray, including one that hit a nearby AirTrain platform, and another that hit a car well down the block.
Outside the court this afternoon, the NAACP spoke out against reckless shooting.
“You look at how much blood was in that car,” said Leroy Gadsden of the NAACP. “It’s only by the grace of God Mr. Benefield was able to escape. I just cannot believe that a human being would do that to another human being.”
“Just as there was no justification for the shooting of Sean Bell and the wounding of his friends, Joe and Trent, there is no justification for putting innocent people in harm’s way,” said Sanford Rubenstein, attorney for the shooting victims.
Detectives Endowment Association head Michael Palladino argued that an officer firing his weapon but missing a target is not committing a crime.
“[Then] anytime a police officer fires his weapon in New York City, and misses his target, which unfortunately we do about 75 percent of the time, he could theoretically be charged with reckless endangerment,” said Palladino.
Meanwhile, during lunch break Thursday, a man outside the courtroom appeared to threaten the three detectives being tried as they were leaving. The man was escorted away for questioning.
Five witnesses testified Wednesday, including Detective Ellen Friedman, an expert in searching for hidden compartments in cars. She testified that she searched Bell’s car after the shooting and found no weapons.
Prosecutors also introduced into evidence the five guns used by the officers in the shooting. The guns were collected by Sergeant Donald Kipp, who interviewed the three detectives on trial.
He says Detectives Mike Oliver and Marc Cooper both admitted to firing their weapons that night.
But he says Detective Gescard Isnora told him he isn’t sure whether he fired or not.
Kipp says the officers who were inside the club where Bell was celebrating his bachelor party were all fit for duty, meaning if they did have a few drinks, he did not think they were drunk.
Detectives Oliver and Isnora are charged with manslaughter.
Detective Cooper is charged with reckless endangerment.