NEW YORK – One of two men wounded in a hail of 50 police bullets that killed their unarmed friend said he feared he would never survive the ordeal.
"Thought I was dead. Thought I was going to die," Trent Benefield, 23, told NY1-TV shortly before he was released from a hospital Tuesday.
Showing bullet wounds and stitches from surgery that left a rod in one of his legs, Benefield pleaded for a fair resolution to the case, which has sparked an outpouring of complaints about police conduct.
The shooting left a 23-year-old man, Sean Bell, dead on his wedding day. It seriously wounded Benefield and another friend, both attending Bell's bachelor party at a strip club. All three men were unarmed.
"One of my friends is dead; another one is shot up. I'm shot up. We need justice," Benefield told the television station during a hospital bedside interview. "I don't want anyone to go through this."
Police have said that five undercover detectives and officers investigating the strip club for prostitution and drugs fired a total 50 shots outside the club.
After leaving the hospital, Benefield joined his attorney and relatives at a meeting the Rev. Al Sharpton had convened with political, religious, labor and community leaders.
"I'd like to say I thank Al Sharpton and the community for sticking by me," Benefield said as he sat in a wheelchair, flanked by his mother, pregnant fiancee and lawyer.
Benefield has disputed the police version of the Nov. 25 shooting. He didn't address the investigation Tuesday evening, but Sharpton and other activists announced a mass march, dubbed Shopping for Justice. It is set for noon on Dec. 16. in midtown Manhattan.
"Collectively, we are tired of seeing these abuses," said Sharpton. "It will be a peaceful march, it will be a silent march, but we expect to bring out hundreds of people in the middle of that shopping district to say, during shopping time, 'We cannot have business as usual.' "
Benefield, 23, and Joseph Guzman, 31, were badly wounded in the shooting, which occurred as they sat in Bell's car. The first undercover detective to open fire has insisted, through his lawyer, that he believed Guzman was pulling a gun when he opened fire on the car. No gun was found.
Guzman remains hospitalized.
Before the shooting, after the undercover detective followed the three men to their car, Bell's vehicle hit one officer and an unmarked police car.
The two survivors, their lawyer said, have told prosecutors that none of the officers identified themselves as police before opening fire.
The shooting has generated widespread outrage, especially among black New Yorkers. The victims were all black; two of the officers were black, two were white and one was Hispanic.
The Rev. Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, who attended Tuesday's meeting and supports the Shopping for Justice march, went a step further and suggested boycotting retailers. He also said a call for the resignation of police Commissioner Ray Kelly was a "strong possibility."
"The changes that have to be made have to be systemic, and many believe that starts at the top, that means Kelly," said Butts, who recently complained of mistreatment by police during a traffic stop.
Police representatives said Kelly had no immediate response.