50 Shots

Social Fabric by from The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2006

Around 4 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, several New York City police officers in plain clothes fired an estimated 50 shots at a car, wounding two black men and killing a third, 23-year-old Sean Bell. Some police bullets penetrated nearby homes. Although an undercover officer had called for back-up, indicating that the three suspects had a gun, no weapon was found in the aftermath.

Inescapably, comparisons were made between Mr. Bell (who was to have been married later on Saturday) and Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant killed in a volley of 41 bullets by four NYPD plainclothes officers in February 1999. Mr. Diallo had committed no crime and was attempting to enter his own hallway when one of the undercover officers yelled, “Gun!” The four officers were acquitted in a trial held outside the city, based upon their defense that they reasonably believed their lives were in danger.

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