Sean Bell Shooting Trial Day 7: "We All Make Mistakes"

The above quote is from Detective Cooper’s attorney, Paul Martin, during cross examination of a witness. (To see all of my posts on this trial, go here, and start at the bottom; for a graphic overview, go here). I call attention to the quote because I find the way I am seeing some of the press cover this trial disturbing. Reporters are not staying around to hear cross examination. They are leaving after direct and running out into the waiting area and calling their offices to report what was said on direct as the testimony from that witness. Often inconsistencies are brought out, problems with the witness’s recollection come to light, the fuller story emerges only on cross.

In this instance, the witness was Sergeant Donald Kipp, who had interviewed officers involved in the shooting at the scene. He’d testified on direct that Det. Cooper told him he didn’t know whether he fired his gun. On cross examination, counselor Martin asked him if he was sure that was what Cooper had told him on the scene, and began taking out some paperwork. Kipp looked down, and said, oh wait, “I’m wrong; Cooper told me he did fire his weapon.” Not an enormous deal, but it does kind of look like the officer’s being evasive if he said he didn’t know whether he fired. At lunch, though, I heard a journalist phoning in to her boss, reading from her notes. Regarding Cooper she said, “Cooper said he didn’t know whether he fired his gun.” And there was no later correction. I see these reporters flying out the doors all the time when direct is over, cell phones in one hand, notes in the other; that’s what she must’ve done. This is why some of the reports are only giving the public half of the picture. In sum, larger point here: what comes out on cross and re-direct and re-cross examination is all part of the trial evidence, press people!!!

Anyway, today’s testimony wasn’t anything tremendously eye-opening, so this post will be much shorter than the last. Officer James Bauman was first on the stand. He arrived at the scene around 4:15 a.m. on 11/25/06. He helped put up crime scene tape and assisted his partner in keeping the scene preserved from a rowdy crowd of about 20 trying to make their way down to where the cars had collided. He accompanied the ambulance that took Guzman to Mary Immaculate Hospital, riding up front. He never heard Guzman say anything. He didn’t know at the time that police were responsible for the shootings and didn’t tell Guzman such. At the hospital, he heard Trent Bennefield yelling while being treated, but couldn’t hear what he was saying.

Next Officer Robert Maloney, the first to arrive on the scene, testified. On his way toward the collision, he passed two officers, who he couldn’t describe, but remembered both wearing police shields. Pursuant to what one told him, he radioed, “2 perps shot” and asked for an ambulance. He escorted the ambulance carrying Sean Bell to Jamaica Hospital where emergency room staff, after removing Bell’s clothes, gave them to him, along with Bell’s wallet and other belongings, which he vouchered (packaged with identifying tags) for safekeeping, later giving them to the crime scene unit. He also vouchered some of Guzman’s clothing that had been removed at the scene.

Sergeant Fred Fisher was called to North Shore Hospital around 5:00 on the morning of the 25th to recover a weapon from an officer who’d been taken there for treatment. At the hospital, he interviewed Officer Carey (who’d been involved in the shooting but wasn’t charged). Carey told Fisher he believed he’d fired three shots. Fisher inspected Carey’s weapon, a Sig Sauer capable of holding 16 rounds, which now held 13 rounds. (According to police procedure, officers’ weapons are fully loaded at the beginning of the tour of duty.) Fisher thus concluded that Carey had indeed fired 3 rounds. Fisher also found Carey fit for duty. The weapon he recovered from Carey was shown to the judge and introduced into evidence.

Next Sergeant Donald Kipp testified that he interviewed, and recovered weapons from, the other officers at the scene. Detective Headley (not charged) told Kipp he didn’t know whether he fired his Smith & Wesson, capable of holding 16 rounds. The weapon now held 15 rounds, so, one shot had been fired from it.

Defendant Detective Oliver told Kipp he fired his Sig Sauer (contradicting what Wheeler had said yesterday) and gave him two empty magazines (each of which can hold 16 bullets). Kipp concluded that Oliver’s weapon had fired 31 rounds. He remembered Oliver wearing his police shield and complaining of ringing in his ears.

Kipp remembered Defendant Detective Isnora telling him he didn’t know whether he fired (also contradicting Wheeler yesterday). His weapon, a Glock 26 off-duty firearm capable of holding 11 rounds, was empty, containing no magazine. Kipp later found an empty magazine on the street, matched it with Isnora’s gun, and concluded that all 11 rounds had been fired. It would have been improper for Isnora to have retrieved the magazine himself from the street, Kipp said, as that would have tainted the crime scene. As far as he could tell, Isnora (allegedly hit by Bell’s car) was able to walk fine.

Regarding defendant Detective Cooper: as I said above, on direct examination, Kipp said Cooper had told him he didn’t know whether he fired his weapon, a Glock 19 capable of holding 16 rounds, 12 of which remained; four fired. On cross, he admitted he’d made a mistake on direct and that Cooper had told him he fired. All weapons went into evidence.

Two weeks earlier, Kipp said, there was a shooting at Kalua Cabaret.

Final witness for today was Detective Ellen Friedman who testified that around 5:30 p.m. on 11/25, she inspected Sean Bell’s car, looking for “traps,” or places in or on the car where items like guns, drugs and money could be hidden. She found no such traps, and no guns. She did see two spent rounds (bullets) — one on the front driver’s seat, the other between the driver’s bottom seat cushion and the center console.

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