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Lawmaker vows thorough probe into Sean Bell shooting

  • Story Highlights
  • Lawmaker says he wants to send message: "These kinds of tragedies have to end"
  • Detectives association says it wants to make sure committee hears both sides
  • Sean Bell's family, legislators, the Rev. Al Sharpton meet to discuss case
  • Bell was shot in 2006, just hours before his wedding
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday met with the family of a man fatally shot by police just hours before his wedding, promising a thorough federal investigation of the incident.

Rep. John Conyers, seen in December, says his committee will look into the Sean Bell shooting.

Three New York police detectives were acquitted Friday on all counts in the case of Sean Bell, an unarmed man killed in a hail of 50 police bullets outside a strip club on November 25, 2006. Bell's two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, were wounded in the shooting.

"We are going to be putting together the federal strategy," said Rep. John Conyers, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a Michigan Democrat. "This is important."

"We want to make sure that justice is served and that a message is sent out, not just to law enforcement but to the young people of this country, that these kinds of tragedies have to end in this country," he said.

The Justice Department said it was conducting an independent investigation to determine if the trio's civil rights were violated.

The Detectives Endowment Association, the union representing Detectives Gescard Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper, said they were trying to set up a meeting with Conyers as well because they believe the committee should "hear both sides of the story."

"That's what's fair to the detectives and the American people," said Michael Palladino, president of the association.

Bell's family, the New York chapter of the NAACP and civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton condemned the verdicts on Friday, with Sharpton calling the rulings "an abortion of justice." Video Watch Sharpton vow to pursue the case »

"Every one of you and everybody in this country and people all over the world knows that an injustice has been done," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York, who also attended Monday's meeting.

Conyers, Rangel, members of Bell's family, Guzman, Benefield and Sharpton met at the office of another New York congressman, Rep. Gregory Meeks. Meeks said the meeting also included a conversation with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton via telephone.

After the meeting, the group traveled to the strip club Kalua, then to the spot where Bell was killed.

Witnesses said that around 4 a.m. on November 26, 2006 -- closing time -- an argument broke out as Bell and his friends left the club. Believing Guzman was going to get a gun from Bell's car, one of the detectives followed the men and called for backup.

Bell, Guzman and Benefield got into the car, with Bell at the wheel. The detectives drew their weapons, said Guzman and Benefield, who testified 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, according to their lawyers, thought Bell was trying to run down one of them, believed their lives were in danger and started shooting.


Oliver, who reloaded his semiautomatic in the middle of the fray, fired 31 times, while Isnora fired 11 times and Cooper, whose leg was brushed by Bell's moving car, fired four times, the NYPD said.

No gun was found in or near Bell's car. None of the detectives had been involved in any similar cases before -- and Oliver had never fired his weapon in the line of duty before. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Julie O'Neill and Katrina Frayter contributed to this report.

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