NEW YORK – A grand jury on Friday indicted three of the five officers in the 50-shot barrage that killed an unarmed man on his wedding day, lawyers told The Associated Press.
The lawyers said Marc Cooper, Gescard Isnora and Michael Oliver had been indicted, but they did not know the exact charges. Those three officers fired the most shots — with Cooper firing 4, Isnora, 11, and Oliver, 31.
The shooting that killed Sean Bell, 23, stirred outrage around New York City and led to accusations of racism against police. Bell was black, as are two of his friends who were wounded in the shooting. Two of the officers are white, and three are black.
The decision follows three days of grand jury deliberations that had the city waiting on edge.
Martin "has been indicted. He has been asked to surrender on Monday," said Paul Martin, who represents officer Marc Cooper.
The lawyer for Gerscard Isnora, 28, also said his client was indicted. "He is very upset, but he is confident that once he has his day in court he will be vindicated," Isnora attorney Philip Karasyk told the AP. Oliver's lawyer, James Culleton, also said his client was indicted.
A person familiar with the case told the AP that the other two officers in the shooting were not charged. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the grand jury's decision has not been made public.
Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton said the charges marked an important first step in the fight for justice in the case.
"Since Nov. 25th, we have battled together. Today is a major step in that battle, whether it will be a step forward, time will tell. But one thing that we can say, if you stay together and you fight, you can do what is necesary to protect children," the Rev. Al Sharpton said at a news conference.
Extra police officers were put on standby and Mayor Michael Bloomberg met with black leaders in the Queens neighborhood where shooting occurred in hopes of defusing any tensions that might arise from the decision.
Police union officials defended the officers in the current case, arguing they were responding to reasonable suspicions the victims were armed and dangerous.
"There was no criminality in their hearts, nor in their minds, when they took the actions they took," Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, said before the grand jurors' decision was revealed.
The grand jurors had been instructed to consider several charges: second-degree murder, manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide stemming from Bell's death; and attempted murder, assault or reckless endangerment in the wounding of Benefield and Guzman.