New York police officers acquitted in death of black bridegroom

Other News Materials 26 April 2008 00:14 (UTC +04:00)

Three New York police detectives were acquitted Friday in the shooting death of a bridegroom-to-be, who died in a hail of 50 bullets fired by the officers outside a Queens strip club in 2006, dpa reported.

The acquittal triggered a small mob riot outside the Queens' courtroom by people who questioned the not-guilty verdict by the jury following two years of legal wrangling. The three detectives fired at Sean Bell, who was 23 years old in 2006 and was three weeks away from his wedding date. Bell was unarmed.

The jury cleared officers Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper of all counts for firing a total of 50 bullets at Bell and a vehicle used by him after he emerged at dawn from the night club.

The detectives were charged with manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called for calm, acknowledging that the verdict had disappointed some people, including Bell's relatives.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement, saying that the city would not accept violence or law-breaking behaviour.

"There will be opportunities for peaceful dissent and potentially for further legal recourse, those are the rights we enjoy in a democratic nation," Bloomberg said. "We don't expect violence or law-breaking, nor is there any place for it. We have come too far as society, and as a city, to be dragged back to those days."

African Americans had in the past protested the shooting deaths of black people by the city's police forces.

In 1999, police fired 41 shots and killed Amadou Diallo, an African immigrant, after breaking into his apartment in Queens. They fired at Diallo who was reaching at his wallet. The officers were acquitted, which triggered mass protests.