Monday, April 02, 2007

Dealer: I Was Shot By Bell

Sean Bell, his fiancee Nicole Paultre, and their daughter

Sources Call Story 'Credible' In July Turf War


Posted Tuesday, March 27th 2007, 12:24 PM

A Queens drug dealer has told police that he was shot by Sean Bell in a turf battle last summer, sources told the Daily News.

The allegation emerged Sunday night, when the 26-year-old ex-con was arrested in Queens on new drug charges.

"He hoped to cut a deal somehow with this information, but so far his account seems credible," a high-ranking police source told The News last night.

The alleged shooting occurred July 13, 2006, nearly five months before Bell was shot dead by police on his wedding day outside a Jamaica, Queens, strip club.

Two of Bell's friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, were wounded; none of the three men was armed.

While NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau detectives say the dealer's tale is credible, it has no direct bearing on the police shooting of Bell.

But legal experts say it could help the defense's attempts to portray Bell as violent, possibly armed and dangerous.

"We expected them to throw dirt at us and they are throwing dirt at us," said Sanford Rubenstein, who represents Bell's would-be bride, Nicole Paultre-Bell, Benefield and Guzman.

Police officials could not rule out that the dealer - who had served nearly three years in state prison for selling drugs - is falsely identifying Bell just to get out of a jam.

But according to police records reviewed by The News, the dealer, whose name is being withheld by The News, was shot on July 13, 2006, and described his attackers as "two unknown black males."

He was treated at Jamaica Hospital for a gunshot wound, but a search for witnesses and ballistics yielded nothing, according to the police report.

When he was arrested Sunday, he told cops that once Bell was killed - and his picture plastered all over newspapers and TV - he immediately recognized him as the man who shot him.

The dealer told detectives that he had been hawking drugs at Rockaway Blvd. and 146th St. last July.

As he was selling his wares, a rival dealer, whom he later identified as Bell, told the man his drug crew owned the turf and ordered him to leave, sources said.

The outraged dealer refused, only to be confronted a short time later by two men in a black Toyota Camry.

In broad daylight, the car pulled alongside the dealer and one of the occupants shot him in the right buttocks as he fled.

"He said the dealer didn't want any competition. He didn't take no for an answer and shot him in the a-- as he ran," another police source said. "He was quite clear: Bell was the man who shot him."

Police sources said they were looking into whether the dealer may have known Bell had shot him - but kept quiet after getting a cut of the drug business in the area.

Since his death, Bell, 23, has become a symbol for alleged police brutality and a flash point for how the NYPD patrols predominantly black neighborhoods.

Police officials have said Bell's history - with an arrest for selling drugs in April 2006 - shows he had reason to flee the law.

None of that - even the dealer's story - should matter, Rubenstein said.

"What relevance does it have to what happened that night?" he said. "None. Does that justify what happened? Absolutely not."

With Scott Shifrel

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