I made "If 5-0 Shoots…" because I wanted to show my support for and solidarity with Sean Bell, his friends, family and the millions of people around the world who believe in social justice.
The murder of Sean Bell and the acquittal of the three police officers indicted for it were unjust. I was upset when I learned that Justice Arthur J. Cooperman had returned not guilty verdicts on all counts. If police could shoot at Trent Benefield, Joseph Guzman and Sean Bell, they could shoot at my boys, Trevor Montgomery and Earl Brown, and at me.
But there's another reason the murder of Sean Bell touched me.
My wife Kenya and I got married on Sept. 30, 2006, a little more than a month and a half before Bell and his fiancee Nicole Paultre were set to get married. When I heard that the three detectives shot Benefield, Guzman and killed Bell after a bachelor party and just hours before Bell's wedding, it hit me hard. I could quickly identify with Bell. The fact that Nicole and Sean never got the chance to share the same marital moment with their families and friends, as Kenya and I did, really distressed me.
The day of the verdict, I wanted to do something, as opposed to sitting home watching news coverage. Kenya and I went to the Queens, N.Y. rally organized by People's Justice and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. I brought along my video camera. I remember asking myself, "Why aren't more people here? Why aren't people willing to take action and stand up for justice?"
When I got home, I knew I wanted to put a short film together and share it with the world. I called Nonso Christian Ugbode, a talented, young graphic artist and editor, and I asked him if he had time to edit the piece. He agreed.
I looked through the footage I shot – a little more than an hour's worth – and took notes. For several days, I prayed and meditated about the story I wanted to tell and how to tell it. I thought about Sean Bell, the 50 shots, the wedding that never was, the verdict and the tragedy of it all.
What would I want people to do if the cops shot at me 50 times, killing me and wounding my boys? How would I want the city, the nation, the world to react? What would I want my family, friends, fraternity brothers, colleagues and people who did not know me personally to do? Out came, "If 5-0 shoots at me 5-0 times …"
Byron Hurt is a filmmaker and an anti-sexist activist.