By NICOLE BODE and CORKY SIEMASZKO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
A pal of Sean Bell's said Monday he covered his eyes just before police opened fire with a 50-bullet barrage that left the groom dead on his wedding day.
Testifying for the first time at the trial of three detectives on trial for killing Bell, Trent Benefield said moments before he was sitting in the back seat of his slain friend's car when a "dark skinned" man suddenly appeared.
"He was in the front of the car, closer to the passenger side," Benefield said. "He had a gun pointed towards us. He had it pointed at the car. He had it pointed toward 'S'."
Benefield, who was badly wounded in the shooting, said he didn't recognize the man, whom prosecutors have identified at Det. Gescard Isnora. He said he did not see any police badges displayed.
"Joe told 'S' to go, drive," Benefield said, refering to Joseph Guzman and using his nickname for Bell. "He started to drive, I felt a collision ... I covered my face like this."
And as a packed Queens courtroom looked on, Benefield balled his fists and held his forearms in front of his face.
"I heard shots," he continued. "I felt myself get shot. My two calves, both. I opened the door and jumped out on the drivers side. I started running."
Benefield said he didn't get far.
"I got shot again, my right thigh, I fell to the ground," he said. "When I looked up, I saw a man walking up to me. He was tall, heavyset, dark-skinned guy. I was on the sidewalk."
Benefield said the man told him to "stay down."
"I told him I didn't do nothing," he said. "I'd been shot."
Benefield insisted he didn't realize the man was a police officer, not even after he was "handcuffed behind my back." He said, "Please don't shoot me. I got nothin' to do with nothin.'"
Benefield also admitted that he'd had three potent Long Island ice teas at the strip joint where Bell had just had his bachelor party - and that he had smoked pot every day for the past six years.
Benefield recounted his tale at the tense trial of detectives Michael Oliver, Marc Cooper and Isnora, who were part of an undercover unit that was doing a prostitution sting at the Kahlua Cabaret when Bell was killed on Nov. 25, 2006.
Prosecutors have called them a trigger-happy trio who opened fire on the unarmed men without identifying themselves as cops.
The defense contends the tragic series of events that ended with Bell's death began when he got into a argument with a man named Fabio Coicou outside the club. They said the detectives fired on Bell's car after he rammed Isnora - and because they believed someone inside was reaching for a gun. No gun was found.
His hair in braids and dressed in a pin-striped suit, Benefield said that when he emerged from the club, he saw Guzman talking with Coicou but did not witness Coicou's argument with Bell.
"He said he's from Far Rock and Joe said, 'I'm from Far Rock too," Benefield said, referring to Far Rockaway.
Benefield said Coicou had his hands in his pockets and he thought he might have a gun. But he denied defense claims that Guzman threatened to go get a gun to settle a score with Coicou.
Benefield said that once the shooting started, "it just kept going. It was continuous." He said that as he lay wounded, one of his buddies slipped him a cell phone so he could talk with his mother.
"My two calves, both," Benefield said when asked to describe his injuries. "I got a rod in my left leg from the knee to the ankle.'
Benefield is suing the city for $50 million in damages.
Guzman, who was hit by 19 shots and still walks with a cane, is expected to testify later in the trial.
Isnora and Oliver are charged with manslaughter. Cooper is charged with reckless endangerment.