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NY Mayor Bloomberg Labels Fatal Shooting ...Inexplicable...

By Diane Cardwell
and Sewell Chan


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg convened an extraordinary summit meeting of black religious leaders and elected officials at City Hall Monday to calm frayed tempers over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in Queens, a killing he called “inexplicable” and “unacceptable.”

“It sounds to me like excessive force was used,” the mayor said of the conduct of the officers, who fired 50 shots outside a Queens nightclub early Saturday, killing Sean Bell, 23, hours before he was to be wed, and injuring two others. “I can tell you that it is to me unacceptable or inexplicable how you can have 50-odd shots fired.”

Bloomberg made the remarks after meeting with some of the city’s most influential black politicians and community leaders, including Rep. Charles B. Rangel, the Rev. Al Sharpton and dozens of others. The mayor’s decision to meet with Sharpton and other black leaders was a stark turnabout from the days of Bloomberg’s predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who did not reach out to black leaders in the immediate aftermath of the fatal 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant who died in a hail of 41 police bullets.

Bloomberg’s blunt assessment of events still under investigation was striking, although he took pains to point out that the facts were not all in, saying several times that he did not yet know what happened in the shooting, which is being reviewed by the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown.

In a surprise development, a lawyer representing the officers said they would testify before the grand jury looking into the shooting. The lawyer, Philip E. Karasyk, who works for the Detectives Endowment Association, said, “We feel confident that once all of the facts and circumstance of this tragic incident are known, then our detectives will be exonerated.”

“This was a tragedy, but not a crime,” he said.

Participants at the private meeting at City Hall, which included Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and several high-ranking Bloomberg aides, described the discussions as frequently heated, with the mayor sitting next to leaders who he counts as supporters. Those more critical of the administration’s response to the shooting, including Sharpton and City Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn, sat on the opposite side of the table.

Bloomberg’s approach of reaching out to community leaders has drawn praise, but it has left some unconvinced that the underlying conflicts between the police and predominantly black communities are being addressed.

“We prefer talking than not talking, but the object is not a conversation, the object is fairness and justice,” Sharpton said as he left City Hall. “Because we’re not just interested in being treated politely, we’re interested in being treated fairly and rightly. And that will happen when police are held as accountable as anyone else.”

Bloomberg pledged to do just that, saying that the city would review its policies and training procedures to ensure fair treatment, but he added that he did not believe the shooting was racially motivated.