That’s about all I can say to accounts of a groom being shot and killed in a hail of police bullets on his wedding day, right after his bachelor party somewhere in Queens.
Evidently, the police were staking out a night club with a history of drugs, prostitution, etc., which, with one more slip-up of that kind, faced being closed down. Out of that night club came 23 year old Sean Bell, scheduled to be married later that day to the mother of his two small daughters, with (at least) two friends, who had just been at Bell’s bachelor party. Evidently, the Nissan Altima that Bell was driving struck an undercover police officer, and then struck a police van with eight officers inside, possibly striking it more than once, after which, five police officers opened fire at Bell’s vehicle, firing at least 50 shots, striking all of the occupants, killing Bell and sending his two friends to the hospital, one in serious condition, and one in critical condition.
Not wasting any time, it seems that the Rev. Al Sharpton is already on the scene, trying to demagogue this into a full-blown racial incident.
Needless to say, I was hoping that the departure of St. Rudy from his service as our Lord Mayor would have led to the merciful end of racially charged incidents of this kind; recall the Giuliani era killing of unarmed Black men by police officers, of whom Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond were the most notable examples. Of course, it is not realistic that in a city of our size that the police will never be forced into circumstances of opening fire on potentially unarmed people (although in this incident, for example, the five officers involved had never previously fired their weapons… most unlike many of the incidents of the Giuliani era).
Investigations will follow. Many people tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the police, all too often after it becomes obvious that they don’t deserve it. We’ll see what happens here; we can all hope that there is a thorough investigation. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the police officers involved legitimately believed that they were in personal danger, and whether armed with guns or not, if Bell had struck a police officer and then a van with people in it, he may well rightly have been regarded as using the vehicle as a weapon.
OTOH, it is also not unreasonable to conclude that the police might have overreacted, particularly if the accounts of Mr. Bell’s driving… are not borne out. Hence… we’ll just have to await an investigation. To his (apparent) credit, it does not appear that our current mayor has immediately pre-judged all of this (as his predecessor would surely have by now.)
This is just one of those horrible tragedies, from every possible angle, most especially for Bell’s fiancee and children, and the families of all involved, including the police officers. Just horrible. (While any tragedy of this kind is a horror for all involved, when one realizes that incidents of this kind are what our troops in Iraq, and the Iraqi people, face dozens of times every day… one just gets numb thinking about it.)