Sean Bell’s Fiance Reflects on His Death, Trayvon Martin
Nicole Paultre Bell speaks out six years later
It’s been nearly six years since Sean Bell was shot and killed by New York City police officers back in 2006 on the day he was supposed to marry his fiance, Nicole Paultre Bell. The Sean Bell case was an arduous court battle that led to the officers’ unexpected acquittal in 2008. However, after five and half years, four of the officers involved have been forced out of the police department, giving the Bell family at least a semblance of closure.
Since the loss of her fiance, Nicole has used the national spotlight to become a social agent. She founded her own non-profit organization in memory of Sean Bell, and in 2010, she took a stab at politics by running for City Council in her Queens district.
In an exclusive interview with Loop 21, Nicole reflects on the Sean Bell saga, what’s on the horizon for her and the Bell family, her thoughts on the Trayvon Martin case and meeting his parents.
Loop 21: How are you and your two daughters doing nearly six years since the shooting of Sean?
Nicole Paultre Bell: We’re blessed. But there is still a struggle to raise awareness regarding this terrible tragedy that took place on my wedding day. We remain faithful. Right now we’re doing our best to pick up the pieces. My daughters are truly a blessing. They’re a mirror reflection of their father.
Loop 21: How are Sean’s parents doing?
Bell: They lost their child, so like any other parent they still miss him. They’re doing their best to cope with it, but they’re also very faithful. They believe in God, so I’m sure that’s what is helping them with this.
Loop 21: How do you manage to keep Sean’s memory alive for your daughters, particularly your youngest daughter who was just an infant at the time?
Bell: Both of my children were very young. Jada was about two weeks away from her fourth birthday. Jordan was only five months. Now they’re 9 and 5. Jordan, of course, doesn’t know Sean personally, but I do my best to show her the photos that we have as a family, and tell all of the wonderful stories about her dad and who he was. It’s important to let them know who their father was.
Loop 21: How do you feel now that the officers involved in Sean’s shooting have been forced out of the NYPD?
Bell: It’s been six years since Sean was killed and it’s something that was long overdue. [Sean and his friends] were celebrating a bachelor’s party. They committed no crime and they weren’t out there causing any trouble. The only trouble that came that night was from the police officers. They should have been dealt with a lot harsher than they have because there was no justice. It was long overdue. Thank God they’re not on the force anymore because those men have proven that they can’t be trusted.
[Also Read: Cop Who Shot Sean Bell Has "No Regrets"]
Loop 21: In 2010, you ran for city council. Do you have any plans to get back into politics?
Bell: There’s a lot that goes with that job. You’re able to serve your community, but officials are under so much pressure. I’ve been through a lot in my life and I think at this point I enjoy what I’m doing now.
Loop 21: What are some things that are happening with you either personally or professionally?
Bell: Being a mom is a full-time job. But I also run a non-profit organization that I founded in 2007 in memory of my fiance. This month we have an event coming up called the Sean Bell Summit at York College in Jamaica, Queens where we hold a mixed panel; the police department, lawyers, clergy, elected officials and the community. Schools and families come out to discuss what not to do when you’re stopped by a police officer or a person who considers themselves an authority figure. You have Trayvon Martin who lost his life. A 17-year-old boy who did not deserve for that to happen. The man who did that should be held accountable all across the board.
Loop 21: You recently wrote an open letter to Trayvon Martin’s parents. Describe the inspiration behind writing the letter and what went through your mind as you were writing it.
Bell: For me it was rather difficult, but it came really natural sitting down and really thinking about what I’ve been through over the last five and half years. What they’re going through right now is almost like a mirror image. I wanted to really encourage them because it’s going to be a long fight. Justice doesn’t come overnight. They’re going to be up against a lot. It’s important for them to remain faithful in God, and also at the same time keep their head up.
My heart and love goes out to that family. I had a chance to meet the mom, dad and the brother and it really brings back memories. I know what it feels like to have to fight.
Loop 21: Do you feel the Bell family has gotten any semblance of justice?
Bell: Justice for us was really social justice because we put everything into the justice system as far as the criminal trial and then the federal indictments, and nothing was done. We’ve done our best to keep Sean’s memory alive and never let anyone forget what happened that night; all the terrible things that were done, but all the positive that came out of it.
Loop 21: What are some things you and/or the Bell family want to, or plan to do in the future?
Bell: Who knows what’s in the future. Right now I enjoy my organization, and I love working with the families and children who are from the same neighborhood that I grew up in. When It’s Real, It’s Forever Inc. has been able to do wonderful things. We started an after school program, a public school in Far Rockaway -- we also have a baseball little league that takes place every year in Baisley Park, Queens.
We hope to one day be able to really pass our message on a larger scale in memory of my fiance, and in memory of all the other innocent people who were senselessly killed. It’s not only about trying to raise awareness about Sean but we also want to prevent this from happening. The more we talk about it, the more dialogue we create about this. And the less it becomes taboo to talk about bias and racism than it will become easier for people to understand each other, and less of these tragedies will be happening.
Nicole Paultre-Bell and her non-profit, When It’s Real, It’s Forever Inc., will be hosting the Sean Bell Summit at York College on April 27, 2012
[Also Read: NYPD Spied On Sharpton During Sean Bell Protests]