Witnesses talk to NYC prosecutors in fatal police shooting of groom on his wedding day

Saturday, December 2nd 2006, 6:20 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) Several witnesses to a police shooting outside a strip club that left a groom dead on his wedding day met with prosecutors Sunday for several hours, a lawyer for the witnesses said.

Between two and six witnesses spent four hours telling assistant district attorneys in Queens ``everything they saw and heard'' about the November 25th shooting that killed 23-year-old Sean Bell and injured two of his friends, lawyer Charlie King said.

The witnesses said they never heard undercover police identify themselves as officers and didn't see them display badges, according to King. He said his clients told prosecutors they heard a ``barrage of shots'' followed by a pause of two to five seconds and then ``another barrage of shots.''

Five undercover detectives and officers fired a total 50 shots outside the strip club, police have said. Before the shooting, Bell's vehicle hit one officer and an unmarked police car, and officers apparently thought one of Bell's companions was about to get to a gun, police have said. No gun was found.

King wouldn't say exactly how many witnesses met Sunday out of fear they might be mistreated or harassed by police. He accused police of ``creating a climate of fear among people who may want to come forward'' with information and of ``witness intimidation.''

He said his clients witnessed the moments leading up to the shooting, the shooting itself or its aftermath. He said each of them was ``25 to 40 feet'' from Bell's car during the shooting.

Witnesses did not give information under oath, King said.

Police spokesman Paul Browne released a short statement Sunday that said, ``Any information secured by the police department's Internal Affairs Bureau, including descriptions provided by witnesses, has been obtained in a professional and appropriate manner and turned over (to) the Queens district attorney.''

One of the clients, Jean Nelson, who attended the meeting, was a ``direct eyewitness'' to the shooting, King said. On Thursday, police pulled Nelson ``off the street to question him against his will'' and against King's advice, the attorney said. Nelson was later released, King said.

At the news conference, King held up a black leather jacket with a fur-trimmed hood that he said Nelson was wearing the night of the shooting. The jacket proves Nelson can't be a fourth man police claim ran from the scene in a beige or tan jacket, King said.

Bell was buried Saturday. His two friends in the car, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, are recuperating at a hospital.