Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Excessive and Unacceptable

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the 50 shots fired by cops involved in the Queens strip club shooting that killed an unarmed man on his wedding day "excessive and unacceptable" yesterday.

Comedian Michael Richards said yesterday he did not consider himself a racist, and that he was "shattered" by the comments he made to two young black men during a tirade at a Los Angeles comedy club, The Associated Press reports.

Flanked by most of the two dozen community leaders with whom he had just met, Bloomberg went out of his way to note that the investigation is far from over and that he supports Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

But in saying the dead man, Sean Bell, 23, and two friends who were shot and wounded had done nothing wrong, he appeared to be at odds with police accounts that one of the victims, Joseph Guzman, 31, had left the club to get a gun. No gun was found. And while police sources say there is no evidence to indicate the shooting victims had a gun, police have still not ruled out the possibility a fourth person may have fled the scene with a gun. They also said that Guzman, an ex-convict who according to state records served time in prison for drug possession, weapons possession and robbery, may have planned to get a gun elsewhere, then return to the club.

Bloomberg's comments followed a morning meeting at City Hall in which he and Kelly talked with a number of noted activists and politicians from Jamaica, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Charles Rangel.

"It's hard to understand - and keep in mind I was not there at the time - why shots should be fired," Bloomberg said. "To me, that sounds excessive and unacceptable."

Richards appeared on the Rev. Jesse Jackson's nationally syndicated radio program, "Keep Hope Alive," as a part of a series of apologies for the incident. He said he knew his comments hurt the black community, and hoped to meet with the two men. He told Jackson that he had not used the language before.

"That's why I'm shattered by it. The way this came through me was like a freight train. After it was over, when I went to look for them, they had gone. And I've tried to meet them, to talk to them, to get some healing," he said.

Richards, who played Jerry Seinfeld's wacky neighbor Kramer on the TV sitcom "Seinfeld," was performing at West Hollywood's Laugh Factory last week when he lashed out at hecklers with a string of racial obscenities and profane language. A cell phone video camera captured the outburst, and the incident later appeared on TMZ.com.Richards told Jackson the tirade was fueled by anger, not bigotry. He said he wanted to hurt those who had hurt him."I was in a place of humiliation," he said.

But New York PBA president Patrick J. Lynch said the mayor's comments were "premature and not based on a full and proper investigation."Premature statements made without the benefit of all of the facts only serve to inflame tensions and prejudice the rights of those who are presumptively innocent," Lynch added.

Richards' publicist, Howard Rubenstein, said Saturday that Richards has begun psychiatric counseling in Los Angeles to learn how to manage his anger.Jackson, who has called Richards' words "hateful," "sick," and "deep-seated," said the comedian's inclusion on the show was a chance for a broader discussion about "cultural isolation" in the entertainment industry.

Richards noted that the racial epithet he used is frequent in the entertainment industry, and acknowledged that it could have consequences."I fear that young whites will think it's cool to go around and use that word because they see very cool people in the show business using that word so freely," he said. "Perhaps that's what came through in that ... the vernacular is so accessible.

The shots were fired within 10 to 15 seconds, police sources said, adding that it would appear to be a violation of the training police officers received.

Kelly said officers are told that in incidents in which they shoot their weapons they should assess the situation after firing three times.

But one officer, a 12-year veteran, fired 31 times from his 9-mm pistol, meaning he emptied the gun's magazine and then reloaded.