Sean Bell Shooting Trial Day Three: "You Can Tell They're Undercover Cops By The Way They Look at You"

Today we had two and a half witnesses (third was a police officer, the head of the sting operation the night of the shooting, who only got about a fourth of the way through his testimony). The main people we heard from today were the two guys Ms. Payne, the former exotic dancer from yesterday’s testimony, passed first walking from Kalua Cabaret to her car and then again when running back to the club from the gunfire.

First on was Hugh Jensen, a very soft-spoken 31-year old man with one prior conviction for grand larceny from ten years ago. He had known Sean Bell and his friends for about six years and was at the club for the bachelor party. He and Bell both drove to the club, each carrying about three people, arrived around 11:45 p.m., and parked near each other, around the corner from the club. When Jensen emerged from his car he noticed a police officer standing at Sean’s car, asking him for his license. After the officer left, they all went into the club together.

Around 3:30 a.m., Jensen took “Bone” home, then returned to the club around 4 to pick up Larenzo Kinred (who testified after Jensen), a seemingly sensitive, emotional 34-year-old with one prior felony for crack possession and four prior misdemeanors mostly for marijuana; one for criminal mischief (he broke a window). When Jensen got back to the club he saw five men from the Bell party standing outside in front. Kinred was talking to a woman named Karis off to the side of the club and Jensen joined them. They soon noticed Sean Bell emerge from the club, go back in for a short time, likely to retrieve something, and, upon exiting again, engage in an “altercation” with a man wearing all black standing next to an SUV in front of the club. Jensen couldn’t hear anything they were saying, but characterized the interaction as “kind of aggressive,” “not a normal conversation.” He saw Bell turn around at one point, a “sarcastic smile” covering his face.

Kinred did hear part of the conversation, however. He heard the SUV guy say to Bell, “hey, you can’t be doing that up here. I got money up here, you can’t be going in there.” Kinred interpreted the SUV man’s actions, the way he held his hand in his pocket, to be simulating that he had a gun. Kinred indeed thought the man had a gun. The other five men in the Bell party approached the SUV guy, standing “around him” and, according to Kinred, one of them said to SUV guy, “we can take that away from you.” Kinred and Jensen saw a pair of men, whom they didn’t know, standing only about five feet away from SUV guy and Bell, closer to the two than Kinred and Jensen were.

Finally SUV guy got into his vehicle and drove away very very slowly, turning at the corner. A green minivan followed the SUV, driving slowly down the street as well. As the green van passed, the driver and his passenger looked out their windows at Jensen and Kinred. They were white men. Because of this and because of the way they looked at them, Jensen and Kinred knew they were undercover cops. (At this point there were gasps in the courtroom). “I just know. From the neighborhood. You can just tell,” Jensen said. On cross, Detective Isnora’s attorney, Anthony Ricco (who, by the way, seems very attuned to the “big picture” in all of this, who gives everyone their humanity even while riddling their stories with holes, and whom I really really like) asked Jensen if he could tell the two men standing near Bell and SUV guy were undercover officers as well. Jensen said no, those two guys looked like they belonged there.

Bell and his friends walked off toward their cars, around the corner. Payne, followed by a bald man, exited the club and walked toward the corner as well.

About twenty seconds later, they heard gunfire. There were two to three shots, a pause, then rapid gunfire. Kinred was waiting for a dancer who’d told him she’d been smacked in the face earlier in the night, but at this point he began walking quickly to the corner from where the shots were coming, Jensen following him. They were fearful but worried about their friends. As they ran toward the gunfire, Payne ran by them. Yesterday Payne claimed they asked her what she was running from, annoyed that they didn’t hear the fire, but Jensen said he and Payne exchanged no words; Kinred said he asked her what had happened. Neither man had heard any screeching tires or yelling before the gunshots.

Rounding the corner, they saw a light-skinned man standing to the right of the minivan holding a gun with two hands and shooting into Bell’s car. Kinred cried at length upon describing this in court. They also saw Bell in his car, his head slumped toward his window. “What are you doing?” Kinred yelled out. The officer with the gun turned around to him and said, “get the fuck off the block, get the fuck off the block.” They saw another light-skinned officer on the other side of the car.

As they turned to walk back around the corner they saw the bald guy who had been following Payne run into a little doorway down the street and duck. A few minutes later, Jensen saw Detective Oliver on a cell phone stating the location of the shooting.

At trial Kinred said he didn’t see any of the actual shooting. However, footage from a TV news camera was played in court, showing him shouting to the cameraman that he’d seen the whole thing and knew the cops crashed into Bell’s car and, because they were scared, emerged from the van and began shooting. He admitted this was all an assumption.

Kinred hid from the police for the next few days, directing his wife to tell them he wasn’t there when they came to speak with him.

Also of note: Kinred said he witnessed a fight between a man and a woman at the front of the bar that night, in which the woman threw a drink in the man’s face. And, the prosecutor made a point of eliciting from Kinred that he was wearing a red Celtics jacket and a red baseball cap that night, which I assume will be important info later on.


  1. This was appears to be some sort of sting operation or the cops believe that some really nasty stuff was going down at that club.

    I am curious as to why there are so many cops and what WAS their motive in being there that evening? What were they looking for? What evidence did they have that it was to be found there?

    Again this sounds to me like the Diallo case where the cops made all sorts of assumptions and then shot first when there was no theat. If they suspected some wrong doing they should have identified themselves and asked the “suspects” to stand still and be frisked or something.

    This sounds like too aggressive policing and cops who see crime in every black face in Jamaica.

    I can also understand how the blacks are so paranoid that they will be shot or hauled off to jail with a chance at justice.

    There is no justification for the violence of these cops. They are not professionals but loose cannons running around with guns on a hair trigger.

  2. According to opening statements there had been several successful drug and prostitution busts at that particular club recently. I think they said they only needed one more in order to close the place down. That’s what they were planning to do there that night. They had pre-recorded “buy money” for the drug busts and were all set up for that. According to opening statements, after someone overheard a fight and threats of getting a gun, the buy and bust operation was elevated into a weapon recovery one. I don’t know all of the evidence yet, obviously, but they apparently thought people in Bell’s party were going to get a gun to use against the SUV guy who’d threatened them and who they expected to return.

  3. They thought…????? What a phony story. I don’t care about prostitution. It’s not a crime as far as I am concerned. I am more concerned with the profiling. If they had evidence of a drug ring operating they should have known who the pushers were and THEY should have been targeted. They weapons thing is BS.

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