NYPD fires officer over 2006 shooting death

Story highlights

  • Three other officers were forced to resign
  • Police Commissioner Ray Kelly accepted the ruling made in a police administrative trial
  • The officers were acquitted of criminal charges in 2008
  • Sean Bell, 23, was killed after an altercation with plainclothes detectives
A New York police detective has been fired and three other officers forced to resign over the 2006 shooting death of a 23-year-old man outside a Queens nightclub, authorities said.
The disciplinary action went into effect late Friday after Police Commissioner Ray Kelly accepted the ruling of a police department administrative trial of the officers involved in the shooting death of Sean Bell.
Detectives Gescard Isnora, Marc Cooper, and Michael Oliver were acquitted of criminal charges in April 2008, but the three men, along with Lt. Gary Napoli, Detective Paul Headley, and Officer Michael Carey faced a an administrative trial investigating if the officers had acted improperly.
"There was nothing in the record to warrant overturning the decision of the department's trial judge," NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said of Kelly's ruling.
Isnora, who fired the first shots that killed Bell, was fired, effective immediately, according to police. Oliver, Napoli and Cooper forfeited all time and leave balances and were forced to retire while Headley received a letter of instructions and re-training in tactics. Carey was cleared of wrongdoing, police said.
Bell and friends Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield were shot after an altercation with plainclothes detectives outside a Queens nightclub where Bell's bachelor party was held on the night before his wedding. Bell died at the scene, and Guzman and Benefield were seriously wounded.
Accounts of the incident varied. Undercover officers, who were investigating the club for prostitution allegations, said they identified themselves as police, but witnesses and the wounded men said they did not.
The detectives said they believed at least one of the men had a gun, but no gun was found. And one of the officers said that Bell, instead of obeying his command to stop, hit him with his vehicle.
The incident quickly became a touchstone for those who believe police -- in New York and elsewhere -- have a record of excessive force, particularly against black men. Bell was African-American, as were the two men wounded and two of the three police officers.
The officers fired 50 shots in just a few seconds.
Oliver fired his gun 31 times that night, pausing to reload his weapon, while Isnora fired 11 times and Cooper, whose leg was brushed by Bell's moving car, fired four times, police said.
The shooting sparked street protests, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it "inexplicable" and "unacceptable," saying "it sounds to me like excessive force was used."
In July 2010, New York City paid out more than $7 million to the family of Bell and the two other men shot by the officers.
Sanford Rubenstein, who has represented the Bell estate as well as Guzman and Benefield, responded to Kelly's decision saying, "It was appropriate for the commissioner to follow the recommendation of the trial judge based on the evidence."
Isnora's attorney, Philip Krasyk was unavailable for comment Saturday.