NEW YORK – She lost her fiance in a hail of police gunfire on their wedding day, but a court has ruled that Nicole Paultre can still have his name.
A civil court judge approved an application to legally change her name to Nicole Paultre Bell, in memory of the victim of the Nov. 25 shooting, Sean Bell, her lawyer said Friday.
The name change will become official next week, said the attorney, Sanford Rubenstein.
Paultre, 22, and Bell, 23, met in high school and had two children together.
In her name-change petition, she wrote: "In honor of the memory of my fiance, Sean Bell, the father of our two children who was killed by police on the morning of the day we were to be married, I request this name change so that my surname will be the same as my two children."
Police killed Bell and wounded two of his friends inside their car after his bachelor party at a Queens strip club where officers were conducting an undercover operation.
An undercover officer began following the victims to the car after overhearing one of them allegedly threaten to retrieve a gun in a dispute with another man. As the car started to pull away, it bumped the officer and then smashed into an unmarked police van, police said.
The undercover officer has insisted, through his lawyer, that he believed one of the companions was pulling a gun when he opened fire on the car; no gun was found. He and other witnesses also have said there was a fourth man in or near the car who disappeared. But Bell's two wounded companions and others who claim to have witnessed the shooting have disputed the existence of a fourth man.
The five officers who fired a total of 50 rounds have been put on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a grand jury investigation by Queens prosecutors.
The victims were all black; the officers were white, Hispanic and black.
The name change was first reported on Essence magazine's Web site. In an interview with Essence.com, Paultre said Bell was carrying their wedding rings when he was killed. After they were returned to her, she put hers on and buried the other with him.
Though Paultre initially labeled the police officers who shot her fiance as "murderers," she has since said she doesn't blame the entire police department for the shooting.
"It's not the department that did this," she said. "It's those five police officers; it's them that need to be held accountable."