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Stripper testifies to witnessing Sean Bell shooting

Feb. 27, 2008

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2008

Updated: Monday, February 28, 2011 14:02

NEW YORK _ A strip club dancer broke down Tuesday as she recalled watching police fire the first shots at Sean Bell and his friends after they left the Kalua Cabaret following a night of partying.In testimony that also brought some spectators to tears, Marseilles Payne, 32, told how she ran back to the club in fear around 4 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2006 after she saw a man get out of a minvan that had collided with Bell's Nissan Altima on Liverpool Street and fire three shots.


She pounded on the club's door, Payne said, and the bouncer let her inside, where she blurted out what was happening.


"`They are shooting at the boys. They are killing those boys. I don't know what happened,'" a crying Payne remembered yelling inside the club.


Payne said that before she got back indoors, she scurried into some bushes and waited out the shooting.


"I put my head between my arms and my legs and waited for the gunshots to stop," Payne said under questioning by executive assistant district attorney Charles Testagrossa.


The shots stopped for about three seconds, then started up again, recalled Payne, who now works as a medical assistant for the city Department of Homeless Services.


"They just kept coming," she said of the shots.


Payne was the first eyewitness to testify in the trial of detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper, who are accused in Bell's fatal shooting and the wounding of Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. Bell, Guzman and Benefield were among a group at Bell's bachelor party.


Payne broke down again when Testagrossa asked her when she next saw Bell, Guzman and Benefield, who were friends of hers.


"The next time I saw them, they were pulling them out of the car into the ambulance," a sobbing Payne remembered. "They put Sean on the stretcher and started to do CPR."


That prompted some of Bell's family members to leave the courtroom in tears.


Prosecutors view Payne's testimony as crucial because it is believed to be the best eyewitness testimony from a civilian about what happened.


But Payne also said she did not see things that police officials and defense attorneys said happened during the shooting. For instance, Payne didn't recall seeing anyone who looked like Isnora standing by Bell's car or trying to get out of the way of the car as it sped away. She also didn't remember seeing Bell's vehicle back up after the first collision and smash into a wall, as police reports stated.


Under cross examination by Isnora's attorney, Anthony Ricco, Payne admitted lying to police in the first hours after the shooting, claiming she didn't see anything.


"I am a single mother with two kids, all alone. I didn't ask for this," Payne said, upset. "But I decided to do the right thing and tell the truth and I am the one suffering."


Later, Payne got laughs when she talked about her life as a club dancer.


"I am the second-best pole dancer in the city," Payne said, smiling. "It is what it is."


The trial resumes tomorrow in State Supreme Court in Queens.

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