SUV guys testimony at odds with Bell police

Trial continues in Queens
March 20, 2008 8:04:54 AM PDT
A key witness contradicted police accounts of a 50-bullet shooting that killed Sean Bell on his wedding day. But defense lawyers note that the witness' testimony also conflicted with his own previous statements. His argument with Sean Bell that fatal night in what may have led police to believe that someone in the group was carrying a gun.

Eyewitness News reporter Nina Pineda has the latest.

This is the witness who was chest-to-chest, trading insults with Bell. He was mysteriously referred to as the "SUV guy" or "the man in black" earlier in the case.

Fabio Coicui argued with Bell and his friends moments before the groom-to-be was killed. Coicui is the witness who initially told investigators he heard someone in Bell's group saying, "We'll get the gat." It was that confrontation outside the Kalua Club that led detectives to believe Coiciu had a gun, and that Bell's friend Joseph Guzman was going to get a gun.

Coicui initially told detectives heard someone say, "We'll get the gat.'' But during testimony Wednesday, he said he never made that statement.

Paul Martin, attorney for detective Marc Cooper: "Do you know what a gat means?"
Coicou: "I don't know. Is it in the dictionary?"

But after being reminded of his grand jury testimony, Coicui conceded under cross-examination.

Coicou: "I thought someone was going to get whatever to do whatever."
Martin: "What did you think they were going to get?"
Coicou: "Girl scout cookies? It could be anything."

Coicui was living in Atlanta at the time and said he never met Bell or his friend before their confrontation. But it is his recollection of the brief standoff which is central to the undercover detectives' explanation for why they eventually fired 50 bullets at Bell's car.

"Coicui was evasive, he was at times hostile," Detectives Endowment Association president Michael Palladino said. "And he appeared to me to be either in fear or intimidated not to cooperate on the witness stand."

Defense attorneys did the best to paint the witness as bias for the prosecution. But attorneys for the Bell family members say it doesn't matter, because neither Bell nor Coicui were armed.