Pubdate: Wed, 29 Nov 2006
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2006 The New York Times Company
Authors: Michael Wilson and William K. Rashbaum
Note: Sewell Chan and Nicholas Confessore contributed reporting.
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)


The identities and career paths of the police officers involved in
Saturday's fatal shooting of an unarmed bridegroom in Queens began to
slowly come into focus yesterday, revealing a handpicked team of
officers responsible for several hundred arrests between them without
ever having fired a round in the line of duty.

The first to open fire Saturday is a 28-year-old black man of Haitian
descent who lives with his mother in Brooklyn. One officer is white, a
12-year veteran, who has made by one account more than 600 arrests.
And a third, the youngest, recently transferred to the team after four
years working in Midtown Manhattan where he was known for his wit,
street smarts and dry sense of humor.

The Police Department, under orders from Commissioner Raymond W.
Kelly, refused to identify or provide biographical information on any
of the officers, citing concerns for their safety. But two of their
names and biographical information on a third have emerged in
interviews with acquaintances and people familiar with the case.

The shooting, with five officers firing a total of 50 rounds at the
car that was carrying three men leaving the Club Kalua, a strip club
in Jamaica, has prompted political and community outrage. The team of
officers consisted of five detectives -- one of them a woman -- an
officer and a lieutenant. They were part of a team investigating the
bar for narcotics and prostitution. Neither the female detective, who
was working undercover, nor the lieutenant opened fire.

A second detective working undercover, a man, suspected one of the
three men leaving the club of carrying a gun and followed them to
their car, according to officials familiar with the officers' account
of events.

The male undercover officer is 28, a six-year veteran. He fired the
first shots after confronting the men and being hit by their car. An
acquaintance of the officer said yesterday that Saturday's shooting
had left him " a little shaky," adding, "He was upset."

The officer grew up in Brooklyn, is single and lives with his mother,
the acquaintance said. He has only 50 or 60 arrests because he has
been undercover for most of his career, the acquaintance said. The
number is low because undercover officers are not usually credited
with arrests and, in fact, are expected to leave the scene before
other officers make arrests, to protect their cover. He has one
citation for meritorious police duty.

"He feels very bad for the family of the deceased," the acquaintance
said. "He feels badly that this had to come to this. He sincerely,
sincerely felt that he was in mortal danger. He's never fired his gun
before and he hopes he will never fire it again."

He fired a total of 11 shots as the other officers also fired. The
bridegroom, Sean Bell, who was to be married that day, was killed, and
his two friends wounded.

One detective, Michael Oliver, 35, fired 31 rounds, according to an
individual who knew the identities of the officers involved but was
not authorized to release them.

Detective Oliver, who is white, joined the department 12 years ago,
and has more than 600 arrests to his name, and multiple arrests
involving guns, which the individual said underscored a history of
restraint with his own firearm. His name was reported yesterday in The
Daily News and The New York Post.

The lowest-ranking member of the team was Officer Michael Carey, 26,
with four and a half years in the department, a fast-rising officer
with a dry sense of humor, according to those who worked with him at
the Midtown South Precinct in Manhattan. He began as a member of an
impact team, a group of several officers assigned to an area
experiencing a spike in crime.

A sergeant at Midtown South who knew Officer Carey personally and had
supervised him there said: "Some people come out with a drive, and
some people are lazy kids. He was a good learner. He excelled more
than some other cops."

Officer Carey had made more than 50 arrests during his first year in
Operation Impact, breaking up drug and prostitution scams in Hell's
Kitchen, the sergeant said. "You got to be street smart. You got to be
aware. He proved himself."

When it came time to move up, Officer Carey was promoted directly to
the precinct's Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, which the sergeant
said "was showing a lot of confidence in him."

"Usually you get patrol. They sent him right to S.N.E.U., because he
was so good," the sergeant said. "They saw his drive."

Two months ago, the sergeant said, Officer Carey was transferred to
the vice squad in Queens.

The sergeant described Officer Carey as quiet, with a dry wit. "He's
not the type to run off his mouth," the sergeant said.

The highest-ranking officer at the shooting was Lt. Gary Napoli, 48,
with 22 years on the job. He took cover when the shooting began and
did not fire, the police said. A man answering his telephone at his
home in Westchester County said, "Goodbye, no comment," and referred
calls to the department's public affairs office before hanging up.

Lawyers for all of the officers who fired their weapons have said
their clients will waive immunity and appear before the grand jury
investigating the shooting. Richard A. Brown, the Queens district
attorney, whose office is leading the inquiry, has acknowledged that
his office has been contacted by lawyers for the men.

Yesterday, a person involved in the inquiry said that investigators
had requested reams of evidence, including photographs, 911 tapes and
ballistics reports from the Police Department, as well as past
complaints about the club and telephone records of the officers involved.

Prosecutors received the Police Department's preliminary report
yesterday, which the person said raised as many questions as it
answered, adding, "We've just begun to scratch the surface."

Commissioner Kelly said investigators located another witness
yesterday. "We have identified another witness and he is being
debriefed now," the commissioner said at a news conference. Paul J.
Browne, a police spokesman, later said the witness had been a customer
of the club that night. "He's in the immediate vicinity of the
shooting when it happened," he said. "We're talking to him now. He's
an independent civilian witness."

Another law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of
anonymity, said investigators were looking for several witnesses in
the area.

"Based on certain witness statements, there are other people who were
walking to their cars at the time," the official said. "We can't say
they saw it, but they may have."

Investigators also plan to review recordings from video cameras inside
and outside the club, in an effort to identify the approximately 40
patrons inside.
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