Published March 17, 2007
NEW YORK – Two police officers involved in a 50-bullet barrage that killed an unarmed man on his wedding day were indicted on charges of manslaughter, and a third faces a misdemeanor charge, a person familiar with the investigation said Saturday.
The officers were indicted Friday by a grand jury that had deliberated for three days over whether to bring charges in the death of Sean Bell, who was shot while leaving a bachelor party last November.
Michael Oliver, who fired 31 of the shots, and Gescard Isnora, who fired 11, face the felony manslaughter charges, according to a person who spoke with The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the indictment is sealed.
Marc Cooper, who fired four shots, faces the misdemeanor endangerment charge, the person said.
The indictment is to be unsealed Monday. Lawyers for the three officers said the defendants had been told to surrender then for arraignment. Prosecutors have declined to discuss the grand jury's work.
Police union officials defended the officers in the Bell shooting, arguing they were responding to reasonable suspicions that the victims were armed and dangerous. Supporters said an indictment does not necessarily lead to a conviction.
"You can indict a ham sandwich or even a rock in the grand jury," said Michael Palladino, president of the 15,000-member Detectives Endowment Association.
The grand jury declined to indict on the more serious counts of second-degree murder, or the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide.
The decision came nearly four months after the shooting, which led to angry protests and raised questions about police tactics.
The men who were shot were black. Cooper, 39, and Isnora, 28, are also black; Oliver, 35, is white. Authorities said the other two officers not charged, one black and one white — were not charged.