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Cooper apologizes for role in “tragedy”

A grim-faced Detective Marc Cooper spoke in a halting voice that seemed barely to restrain a flood of emotion as he reached out to Sean Bell's family.

Cooper and fellow Detectives Gescard Isnora and Michael Oliver, acquitted just four hours earlier of killing Bell and wounding his two friends, faced a basement room overflowing with reporters, TV cameramen and jostling photographers at the Detectives Endowment Association in Lower Manhattan.

None took questions from journalists.

"I would like to say sorry to the Bell family for the tragedy," said Cooper. "I'd like to thank the Lord, my savior, today," Cooper said. "This started my life back."

Cooper was the only one of the three detectives who apologized to the family of the 23-year-old man felled by their bullets.

Isnora thanked "the Lord Jesus Christ for bringing this all to fruition" and Queens Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman for acquitting the three officers.

Oliver thanked the judge "for his fair and just decision."

It was the first time the three undercover detectives had spoken in public since the 50 shots were fired outside a Jamaica club early on the morning of Nov. 25, 2006.

Michael Palladino, president of the endowment association, also offered an apology to the Bell family.

"There can be no greater pain than the pain of having to bury one of your children," Palladino said.

He said the strain of "this ordeal" over the last 17 months had been severe, "but now I spell relief n-o-t g-u-i-l-t-y."

Palladino said the fact that the defense in the trial chose a judge rather than a jury to decide the emotionally charged case kept the Rev. Al Sharpton from attending all sessions of the two-month-long trial.

"There was no jury for the Rev. Sharpton to play to," Palladino said.

Speaking of the judge's decision, Palladino said, "The judge stayed focused. His was truly a profile in courage."

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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