Sean Bell Shooting Trial Day 8: "It Looked Like Swiss Cheese"

The above was overheard in the ladies room, and was spoken by a woman on her cell phone describing Sean Bell’s car after the shooting. I also thought the car looked like some kind of mechanical intruder attacked by arrowheads, but will get to that in a moment.

It was a L O N G, S L O W day. Only witness — who didn’t even finish his direct testimony — was Detective David Rivera, of the Crime Scene Unit. He arrived on the scene at 6:30 a.m. — so a little over two hours after the shooting — and took approximately 1,987 photos. No, there were really only 80, but it felt like far more because of course Det. Rivera went through each in great detail having his fellow Assistant D.A. zoom in, pan out, etc., in order to show exactly where he found each and every item he saw…

Of course some of the pictures were very disturbing. Most of the ones of Mr. Bell’s car were taken from the passenger side, since that’s where the vast majority of bullets were fired into. Blood covered the front passenger seat. It’s a miracle Joseph Guzman survived (that’s where he was sitting). I really don’t know how he did. There was blood on the driver’s side as well. In the courtroom, the first two rows are reserved for the press, the second two rows for family and friends of Bell and the defendants, and the last several rows are for the general public. Sean’s mother and father sit in the third row and his fiance, Nicole, behind them. When the bloody pictures were shown on the screen, practically the entire first two rows turned around to look at the mother and Nicole. They kept it together though; Mrs. Bell, the mother, sat with her head in her hands, as she often does.

The passenger window of Bell’s Nissan Altima was blown out, glass was all over the front and back seat floors, and the passenger-side door bore a great deal of bullet holes. By the way, the photographs and other pictorial exhibits (diagrams, maps, etc.) are projected onto two large screens hanging on each side of the wall above the judge, for everyone in the courtroom to see. Each defendant, each prosecutor, the judge, and the witness on the witness stand, all have monitors at their desks so that they have an up-close view.

Anyway, one of the things Rivera does in reconstructing a crime scene is to place trajectory markers (which appeared from the picture to be arrows about a foot long) into the bullet holes in the direction from which the shots were fired, which he can determine by the shape of the hole. When he showed a picture he took of the car with all arrows in place, the onslaught of gunfire into it was really driven home. Gasps spread across the courtroom. There were a few arrows in the back of the car, I think one in the driver’s side (where Bell was sitting), and the passenger side looked like a porcupine.

There was also one exit bullet hole in the back driver’s side door. Rivera said it could either have been fired through the passenger side of the car and come through to the other side, or it could have come from being fired within the car. There was damage to the front bumper, inside door panel, trunk, and back bumper of the Altima. There was little damage to the police prisoner van.

There was also ballistic (bullet) damage to a nearby house, as well as to two cars parked in front of it. A bullet had gone through the house’s living room window, located next to a couch, ricocheted around a lamp and ended up in its shade. Regarding the parked cars: a bullet had pierced the rear window of one, passed through a headrest, and exited through its front window. Rivera also found a deformed (fired) bullet near the steering wheel and a bullet fragment on the car’s floor. The other parked car’s rear cargo window had been blown out and a deformed bullet found in its cargo area.

Rivera gave detailed measurements of everything from the lengths and widths of the streets, the distance of the cars from the sides and ends of the streets, and the exact locations of found items. Among those items were a holster and magazine (Detective Isnora’s) near the sidewalk on the passenger side of Bell’s car. Keys, a cell phone, and three baseball caps were recovered from inside the Bell car. Trent Bennefield’s removed clothing was recovered from a grassy area on the sidewalk. From his jacket pockets were an interim driver’s license and a gold mouthpiece. A pendant and chain were found near the clothes as well. Rivera also recovered blood swabs from blood on the ground.

Interestingly, a large plastic bag filled with smaller ziploc bags containing “a green leafy substance” and another smaller plastic bag containing the same were found near a vehicle parked on the side of the street. We’ll find out Monday, according to the D.A. how that relates to the case and what was in the bags.

I didn’t get the exact count, but a great many shell casings (which are discharged when a weapon is fired and a bullet ejected), bullet fragments, and deformed bullets were found on the scene, in or near Bell’s car. I’m sure we’ll get detailed info on which bullets and shell casings came from which gun next week.

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