NEW YORK – Standing steps away as police let loose a torrent of gunfire that killed a groom on his wedding day, onlookers heard the officers pause for several seconds and then begin shooting again, a lawyer for the witnesses said.
Between two and six witnesses spent four hours Sunday telling assistant district attorneys in Queens "everything they saw and heard" about the Nov. 25 shooting that killed 23-year-old Sean Bell and injured two of his friends, lawyer Charlie King said.
The witnesses said they never heard undercover police identify themselves as officers and didn't see them display badges, according to King. He said his clients told prosecutors they heard a "barrage of shots" followed by a pause of two to five seconds and then "another barrage of shots" at a car full of unarmed men.
Five undercover detectives and officers fired a total of 50 shots outside the strip club after Bell's bachelor party, police have said. Before the shooting, Bell's vehicle hit one officer and an unmarked police car, and officers apparently thought one of Bell's companions was about to get to a gun, police have said. No gun was found.
King wouldn't say exactly how many witnesses met with prosecutors out of fear they might be mistreated or harassed by police. He accused police of "creating a climate of fear among people who may want to come forward" with information and of "witness intimidation."
He said his clients witnessed the moments leading up to the shooting, the shooting itself or its aftermath. He said each was 25 to 40 feet from Bell's car during the shooting.
Witnesses did not give information under oath, King said.
Police spokesman Paul Browne released a short statement Sunday that said, "Any information secured by the police department's Internal Affairs Bureau, including descriptions provided by witnesses, has been obtained in a professional and appropriate manner and turned over [to] the Queens district attorney."
One of the clients, Jean Nelson, who attended the meeting, was a "direct eyewitness" to the shooting, King said.
On Thursday, police pulled Nelson "off the street to question him against his will" and against King's advice, the attorney said. Nelson was later released, King said.
At a news conference Sunday, King held up a black leather jacket with a fur-trimmed hood that he said Nelson was wearing the night of the shooting. The jacket proves Nelson can't be a fourth man police claim ran from the scene in a beige or tan jacket, he said.
Bell was buried Saturday. His two friends in the car, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, are recuperating at a hospital.