Officer who fired first bullet during Sean Bell shooting fired from NYPD

POOL: Detective Gescard Isnora (right partially hidden- with his attorney Philip Karasyk - left.) The arraignment of three detectives charged in connection of the fatal shooting of Sean Bell last November. Original Filename: IMG_7437.JPG
Photo by Jesse Ward
By Phil Corso and Christina Santucci

Four police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Sean Bell are being forced out of the NYPD, police said.

Detective Gescard Isnora, who fired the first bullets during the 2006 shooting outside of a South Jamaica nightclub, has been fired from the force, and three other police officers have been asked to resign, the NYPD said.

According to police, Isnora will not receive pension or health benefits. Last year, an NYPD judge found at the conclusion of an administrative trial that Isnora acted recklessly and unnecessarily by firing 11 shots during the 50-bullet barrage that killed then 23-year-old Bell in the early morning hours of his wedding day.

Detectives Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper and Lt. Gary Napoli reached plea deals with the department and will receive part of their pensions if they resign, the NYPD said.

“To me, they copped out,” Bell’s mother, Valerie Bell, said of the three officers’ resignation. “They knew that if they went to trial they would have lost everything.”

Bell had been celebrating his bachelor party with friends Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield at Kalua Cabaret the night he was killed.

In his October 2011 testimony at the internal NYPD trial, Isnora said that though Bell and his friends were unarmed, he believed Guzman was going to the car to retrieve a gun. After Isnora opened fire, Oliver and Cooper followed with 31 and four shots, respectively. Lt. Gary Napoli had been the commanding officer of the undercover team that was investigating suspected drug and prostitution operations at the strip club the night of the shooting.

Three officers – Isnora, Oliver and Cooper – were found not guilty in a 2008 criminal trial by a judge, and the city later settled with Bell’s relatives and friends for $7.15 million in a civil trial.

Valerie Bell said the family has been channeling their focus on the Sean Elijah Bell Community Center, which opened last year, and taking care of Bell’s two daughters.

“What more can we ask for now? Nothing is going to bring [Sean Bell] back,” Valerie Bell said.

Officer Michael Carey, who fired three of the 50 shots, was Isnora’s co-defendant in the administrative trial, and the judge did not recommend any disciplinary action against him. Detective Paul Headley fired one shot.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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