Was the shooting death of Sean Bell motivated by race?

By now, you’ve probably heard the story about the Queens, NY shooting death of Sean Bell by the NYPD. 50 shots were fired by undercover police officers at the scene of the incident – a strip club, killing Bell and injuring 2 others, who are still in the hospital.

This story is being portrayed by the media, and the usual race hustlers like Rev. Al Sharpton, as being one in which the cops were motivated by race to shoot at Bell and others at the strip club. As usual, when it comes to racial issues, there is more to the story than what you’re seeing in the mainstream press.

Heather MacDonald fills in the missing information blanks in this City Journal piece (emphasis added):

New York’s anti-cop forces have roared back to life, thanks to a fatal police shooting of an unarmed man a week ago. The press is once again fawning over Al Sharpton, Herbert Daughtry, Charles Barron, and sundry other hate-mongers in and out of city government as they accuse the police of widespread mistreatment of blacks and issue barely veiled threats of riots if they do not get “justice.”

The allegation that last weekend’s shooting was racially motivated is preposterous. A group of undercover officers working in a gun- and drug-plagued strip joint in Queens had good reason to believe that a party leaving the club was armed and about to shoot an adversary. When one of the undercovers identified himself as an officer, the car holding the party twice tried to run him down. The officer started firing while yelling to the car’s occupants: “Let me see your hands.” His colleagues, believing they were under attack, fired as well, eventually shooting off 50 rounds and killing the driver, Sean Bell. No gun was found in the car, but witnesses and video footage confirm that a fourth man in the party fled the scene once the altercation began. Bell and the other men with him all had been arrested for illegal possession of guns in the past; one of Bell’s companions that night, Joseph Guzman, had spent considerable time in prison, including for an armed robbery in which he shot at his victim.

Nothing in these facts suggests that racial animus lay behind the incident. (Though this detail should be irrelevant, the undercover team was racially mixed, and the officer who fired the first shot was black.) But even more preposterous than the assertion of such animus is the claim by New York’s self-appointed minority advocates that the well-being of the minority community is what motivates them. […]

The fact that the undercover officers were not all black, and that the first shot fired came from a black policeman – in retaliation for Paul attempting to use his car as a lethal weapon – is something you will be hard pressed to find in the MSM. Their incomplete and oftentimes sloppy reporting on matters related to race is hardly a surprise to those of us who pay close attention to how the media operates, but all the same, it’s worth pointing out because such shoddy reporting serves only to further inflame tensions between black people and law enforcement, not to mention leads to various advocacy groups calling for “sensitivity training” and “harsh disclipinary action” against police officers who are acting in self defense, which in turn serves only to make police officers, whose quick-thinking decisiveness we rely on oftentimes to save our lives, hesitant to pull the trigger in a time when lives – including their own – are on the line.

I know there are exceptions to the rule, of course, and that the police aren’t perfect, but people need to learn that just because there are white officers involved in the shooting of a black person doesn’t automatically mean the shooting was racially motivated. People need to consider all the facts, instead of making a too-soon judgement call. And maybe they could, if the MSM were doing their jobs when reporting about such incidents. MacDonald is on the same page:

This is not to say that the public and elected officials should automatically excuse every police shooting—which they are obviously far from doing. But to presume that every mistaken shooting represents a system-wide failure is inaccurate and unrealistic. The New York Times darkly commands: “[T]he Police Department must . . . confront the fact that a disaster that everyone swore to prevent seven years ago has repeated itself in Queens.” But because cops are humans and therefore fallible, it is impossible to prevent every wrongful shooting—without emasculating the police entirely. The New York Times has itself made a few mistakes over the last seven years; perhaps it, too, needs to confront its persistent fallibility.


Hat tip: Stephen Spruiell at NRO’s Media Blog

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