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Sean Bell

Sean Bell

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Three NYC police officers have been found not guilty on charges relating to the shooting of an unarmed black man killed in a hail of bullets on his wedding day.

Sean Bell, 23, was shot, along with two friends, after a bachelor party at a strip club in the city in November 2006.

50 bullets were fired at him. He was unarmed.

A New York State Supreme Court judge cleared two officers of manslaughter and other charges and a third of reckless endangerment in the death.

After the verdict, loud sobs were heard in the courtroom. Outside, about 200 demonstrators angrily yelled at television cameras.

'They're murderers, criminals, and they are going to rot in hell where they belong,' one man shouted.

The case has generated outrage in New York's black community, and police prepared for potential unrest with the announcement of the verdict.

However, officials said they did not expect violence because numerous demonstrations against the perceived police brutality had remained peaceful.

The detectives, Mike Oliver, Marc Cooper and Gescard Isnora, waived their right to a jury trial and decided to have the judge decide guilt or innocence.

Defence lawyers said jurors in the borough of Queens were likely to be biased against the policemen due to the intense media coverage the case has generated.

State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Cooperman said the charges could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The eight-week trial centred on whether the detectives had reason to believe they faced imminent danger and whether they made it clear to Mr Bell and the two survivors that they were police officers.

On the night of the shooting, Mr Isnora, the undercover officer who fired first, followed Sean Bell and his two friends to Mr Bell's car believing they went to fetch a gun to settle a dispute at the club.

The other officers reached Mr Bell's car after the initial confrontation and said they believed Detective Isnora was being fired at from inside the vehicle.
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