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Queens Chronicle

Sean Bell Center closes in Jamaica

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Posted: Monday, November 25, 2013 1:22 pm | Updated: 11:35 am, Wed Nov 27, 2013.

The Sean Elijah Bell Community Center, established in the memory of the Jamaica man killed in an infamous police shooting in 2006, closed on Friday after struggling to get funding for its daycare, afterschool and other program.

Today, Nov. 25, is the seventh anniversary of Bell’s death.

The center opened at 107-52 Sutphin Boulevard in 2011.

“We can’t get the support to keep it going,” Bell’s father, William, said in a telephone interview on Monday. “We closed Friday and we’re moving stuff out today. It’s funny — you try your best to help people and they don’t give you the support to keep going, so what are you supposed to do?”

William and Valerie Bell’s son was killed hours before his wedding. Sean Bell and two friends were in a car following a confrontation outside of a strip club where Bell’s bachelor party had taken place.

A police officer said he heard someone  in Bell’s party say something about getting a gun. After the driver allegedly attempted to run over an officer, police fired 50 shots at the vehicle, killing Bell and wounding the other two men. One of the officers emptied and reloaded his weapon.

No gun was found in the car. Five officers were acquitted of all criminal charges stemming from Bell’s death. One officer eventually was fired and three resigned.

The shooting sparked citywide protests, and did lead to changes in police procedures surrounding officer-involved shootings.

William Bell was trying to take the somber anniversary in stride.

“I don’t know how I’ve been able to deal with it,” he said. “The center was something that kept me going.”

The center offered day programs for children of working parents; homework and reading help; and afterschool programs among its offerings.

“The ones I feel most sorry for are the kids in the neighborhood.” Bell said. “You want to keep the kids of the streets. We tried to keep it going. Maybe we’ll be able to open up a new center someday. We couldn’t get the help we needed.”

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