NYPD officer who shot groom defends his actions

See also: NY police on guard after death threats

By Alison Gendar
New York Daily News

NEW YORK- The undercover police officer who fired the opening salvo in a 50-shot barrage that felled a Queens man on his wedding day told his story Tuesday for the first time.

The detective insisted he identified himself as a cop long before he fired on the car carrying Sean Bell and his buddies.

"This cop screamed, `Police!' and he had his shield out," attorney Philip Karasyk told the New York Daily News.

The News is withholding the name of the Brooklyn-born detective to not compromise his safety or the undercover operations he has worked on.

The detective held his fire despite Bell clipping him with his Nissan Altima, said Karasyk, who refused to name his client, even as police sources confirmed his identity. "Once the car hit him he jumped to the side," Karasyk said.

But when the cop saw the man sitting in the passenger seat _ whom police sources identified as Joseph Guzman _ reach into his waistband, the officer fired the first of 11 rounds at the men.

Four other officers, believing they were being shot at, also opened up on the car, Karasyk said. When the gunfire was over, Bell was dead and Guzman and another man, Trent Benefield, were badly wounded.

"The other officers believed the shots were coming from the vehicle," Karasyk said. "They only did so in this case because they were in mortal fear for their lives."

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has vowed to get to the bottom of the Saturday morning shooting that has outraged black New Yorkers _ and that Mayor Michael Bloomberg said looked like "excessive force."

Karasyk, however, said the five cops involved in the shooting _ none of whom ever fired his gun on the job before _ had no qualms about telling their story before a Queens grand jury.

"That's our offer to the prosecutors _ to waive immunity," Karasyk said.

The lawyer's client is a Hispanic officer in his late 20s.

A 66-year-old relative told The News that the detective is a good cop.

"Only God knows what happened," he said. "Police never shoot for no reason. Maybe he's got a reason?"

The U.S. Justice Department is monitoring the unfolding investigation, but Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Roslyn Mauskopf emphasized it is not independently collecting evidence or interviewing witnesses.

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said police were questioning a new witness. Sources said that witness was China Flores, who had told The News that a fourth man nearly jumped in Bell's car before the shooting.

Police are still searching for that fourth man, who is believed to have left the Kalua Cabaret in Jamaica, Queens, with the victims _ and to have disappeared shortly before the shooting started. Police also believe that the mystery man may have been armed.

All five officers have been placed on paid leave and ordered to surrender their guns.

Life-long friends, Guzman and Benefield took Bell out for a bachelor bash at the club _ unaware that cops investigating drugs and prostitution were staking out the joint.

Two undercover detectives _ Karasyk's client and a female officer _ were inside. NYPD guidelines permitted them to have two drinks; Kelly said it wasn't yet known whether Karasyk's client was drinking because he hasn't been questioned pending the grand jury probe.

When Bell and his pals left at 4 a.m., Karasyk's client followed. Kelly conceded on Monday that it was unusual for an officer to pursue suspects; normally, the undercover signals his colleagues to move in.

Karasyk said his client followed because he heard Guzman say outside the club that he was going to get a gun to settle a beef with another club patron.

Many in the African-American community believe there was a racial component to the shooting because Bell and Benefield are both black.

Detective Mike Oliver, who fired 31 shots, and Officer Mike Carey, who fired three times, are both white _ as is Lt. Gerard Napoli, the supervising officer who did not fire his weapon. The two other officers who fired the remaining shots are both black. Their names have not been revealed.

Investigators have a mountain of evidence to go through, including video from one or more surveillance cameras near the scene of the shooting, radio transmissions among cops and ballistic reports for the 50 shots fired.

There also are more than 50 people to interview, delaying the empaneling of the grand jury. If charges are brought, all the cops' names will come out _ and the NYPD's image will be tarnished.


(New York Daily News correspondents Oren Yaniv and Scott Shifrel contributed to this report.)

Copyright 2006 Daily News

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