NEW YORK – Police were investigating Saturday the shooting death by police of a man outside a Queens strip club in the early hours of his wedding day.
Witnesses said officers shot the three young men — the other two were wounded, one remains critical — after they left a bachelor party at Kalua Cabaret at roughly 4 a.m. Reports placed the three men in a car outside the club at the time of the incident.
The Police Department's chief spokesman, Paul Browne, declined to comment.
"All I know, they was celebrating," said Denise Ford, who said her son was one of the survivors. "The guy was getting married today."
Ford said the trio's car had hit an unmarked police vehicle. The intersection where the shooting took place remained blocked mid-afternoon off as cops inspected a car and a minivan and placed markers where shell casings were found. But police did not immediately confirm that either of those vehicles belonged to the department.
Sgt. Hayes told FOX News that no information on what sparked the incident could be released because the matter was under investigation. As many as eight officers may have been involved, said Sgt. Mike Wysokowski, another department spokesman.
As Saturday moved on and it remained unclear what sparked the shooting, there was an outcry from family members and community leaders.
Relatives said the dead man was Sean Bell, 23.
Robert Porter, who identified himself as Bell's first cousin, said he was supposed to be a DJ at the wedding.
"I still don't want to believe it, a beautiful day like this, and he was going to have a beautiful wedding, he was going to live forever with his wife and children. And this happened," Porter said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said family members told him that there were no guns in the young men's car and "there was no reason for the police to shoot."
"On the face of it, it seems to me to be certainly something that causes extreme alarm and must be thoroughly investigated," said Sharpton, who said he was called by a relative of the man who died.
Sharpton said Bell and his fiancee had two children, ages 5 months and 3 years.
Sharpton said after visiting the two wounded men — Trent Benefeld, 23, and Joseph Guzman, 31 — that he was outraged to find the pair handcuffed to their hospital beds. He said one suffered 17 wounds, though it was unclear how many were bullet wounds, and the other man was shot three times.
"We're not anti-police ... we're anti-police brutality," Sharpton said.
Abraham Kamara, 38, who lives a few blocks from the scene of the shooting, said he was getting ready for work when he heard gunfire.
"First it was like four shots," he said. "And then it was like pop-pop-pop like 12 times."
Roy Brown, who said he works as a photographer at the club, said sirens sounded not long after the three men left the club.
"They weren't rowdy or nothing like that," said Brown, 57.
The owner of the building, Juan Escobar, would not say who owned the Kalua Cabaret. A message seeking comment was left at a phone number listed for the club.
One of the wounded men was in critical condition at Mary Immaculate Hospital and the other was listed as stable.
There were no reports that any officers were wounded, Officer Kathleen Price said.
In 1999, NYPD officers killed Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant who was shot 19 times in the entry to his apartment building. The four officers in that case were acquitted of criminal charges.
In 2003, Ousmane Zongo, 43, a native of the western African country of Burkina Faso, was killed during a police raid on a warehouse where he repaired art and musical instruments. Zongo was shot four times.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.