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Bell's fiancee: 'They killed Sean all over again'

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  • NEW: Nicole Paultre Bell: "Yesterday, the justice system let me down'
  • NEW: Detectives should have had a jury trial, the Rev. Al Sharpton says
  • Detectives were acquitted of wrongdoing in Sean Bell shooting case
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A day after three New York police detectives were acquitted on all counts in the case of Sean Bell -- an unarmed man killed in a hail of 50 police gunshots -- his fiancee told supporters that the justice system let her down.

Nicole Paultre Bell addresses a rally Saturday in New York. Behind her is the Rev. Al Sharpton.

"On April 25, 2008, they killed Sean all over again," Nicole Paultre Bell told supporters at a rally organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

"That's what it felt like to us," she said Saturday. "Yesterday, they -- the justice system -- let me down. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I'm still praying for justice, because it's not over. It's far from over."

Bell spoke after Sharpton criticized the judge who acquitted the three officers, saying the case should have been heard by a jury.

"If people are on the public payroll, doing their public duty, they should be required to face a public jury," Sharpton said at the National Action Network headquarters.

The officers chose to have a judge decide the case instead of a jury.

Sharpton said the victims were unfairly portrayed as dishonest.

"These three families have had to endure and have had to abide through the most, in my judgment, scandalous denigration of victims that I've seen in my lifetime," he said.

On Friday, Justice Arthur Cooperman cleared Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment in the death of Sean Bell. Video Watch the commotion outside the courthouse »

Detective Marc Cooper was cleared of reckless endangerment.

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Bell, 23, died in November 2006 in a 50-bullet barrage -- 31 fired by Oliver -- hours before he was to be married. Two of his companions were wounded in the gunfire outside a Queens nightclub.

Alexander Jason, an expert witness for the defense, produced a video demonstrating how quickly Oliver could have fired off 31 rounds, including a pause to reload. iReport.com: Watch the video

The three officers made brief statements more than four hours after the verdict.

"I want to say sorry to the Bell family for the tragedy," Cooper said.

Isnora thanked the judge "for his fair and accurate decision today."

Oliver praised Cooperman "for a fair and just decision."

Patrick Lynch, president of the New York Police Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said "there's no winners; there's no losers" in the case.

"We still have a death that occurred. We still have police officers that have to live with the fact that there was a death involved in their case," Lynch said.

But, he added, the verdict assured police officers that they will be treated fairly in New York's courts.

In announcing the verdict, Cooperman said he found problems with the prosecution's case. He said some prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves, and he cited convictions and incarcerations of witnesses.

"At times, the testimony just didn't make sense," Cooperman said, according to a transcript released by his office.

He also cited the demeanor of some witnesses on the stand.

Bell was killed just before dawn on his wedding day, November 25, 2006. He and several friends were winding up an all-night bachelor party at the Kalua Club in Queens, a strip club that was under investigation by a NYPD undercover unit looking into complaints of guns, drugs and prostitution.

Undercover detectives were inside the club, and plainclothes officers were stationed outside.

Witnesses said that about 4 a.m., closing time, as Bell and his friends left the club, an argument broke out. Believing that one of Bell's friends, Joseph Guzman, was going to get a gun from Bell's car, one of the undercover detectives followed the men and called for backup.

What happened next was at the heart of the trial, prosecuted by the assistant district attorney in Queens.

Bell, Guzman and Trent Benefield got into the car, with Bell at the wheel. The detectives drew their weapons, said Guzman and Benefield, who testified that they never heard the plainclothes detectives identify themselves as police.

Bell was in a panic to get away from the armed men, his friends testified.

But the detectives thought Bell was trying to run down one of them, believed that their lives were in danger and started shooting, according to their lawyers.

A total of 50 bullets were fired by five NYPD officers. Only three were charged with crimes.

No gun was found near Bell or his friends.

Paultre Bell, Guzman and Benefield have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court that has been stayed pending the outcome of the criminal trial.

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Federal prosecutors will conduct a review to determine whether there were any civil rights violations, Brown said.

Soon after Bell's death, his fiancee changed her name to Nicole Paultre Bell. She is now raising the couple's two daughters, ages 5 and 1. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Sean BellNew York City Police Department

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