Ten Years After Losing Sean Bell, Nicole Paultre-Bell Is More Than Strong… She’s Happy

There was an unexpected sting in the air on the November afternoon Nicole Paultre-Bell visited the VIBE offices. After a few days of comfortable 55, 60-degree weather, Old Man Winter peeked his head in the form of gray clouds and a few scattered snowflakes to inform us all that he’s on his way. Nicole didn’t mind; she’d been running around Manhattan all day conducting interviews in support of the 10-year anniversary of her then fiancé, Sean Bell’s murder at the hands of the NYPD.

During the wee hours of Nov. 25, 2006, Sean Bell and two friends were leaving a Queens strip club. The men were celebrating Bell’s last night as a bachelor before he was to wed his high school sweetheart, Nicole. As reported, three plainclothes detectives fired into his vehicle 50 times, killing Bell and injuring the others. Bell, along with Joseph Guzman, who was shot 16 times, and Trent Benefield who was wounded four times, were not armed. Yet, all the officers involved in the horrific shooting were acquitted. Judge Arthur Cooperman, who was 72 years old at the time of the case, spoke with the New York Daily News a week before the anniversary and said he didn’t regret handing down his verdict. “The decision was the decision,” Cooperman said. “It was in writing. It said all that had to be said.”

Despite the acquittal, Bell’s family was awarded a $7 million settlement and then slowly a sense of normality crept back into the city, except for Nicole. At just 22 she was now left to parent two young girls, Jada, who was three years old, and Jordyn who was just a few months, by herself. Life wasn’t easy for the single mom, but Nicole made due and made a way, and 10 years later she’s more than just strong. She’s also happy.

With skin the color of maple syrup and almond shaped eyes, if someone doesn’t know who Nicole is, she blends into the fold of everyone else simply trying to make it to Friday. Her aura doesn’t reek of loss, trauma or hurt. Nicole smiles…often. She gives off homegirl vibes within moments of meeting her and that of a woman who knows herself. She doesn’t shy away from difficult questions and while her eyes became misty while speaking about him, she pushes through for herself, for Sean and for the awareness she deems important.

For 30 minutes, Nicole Paultre-Bell talked about Sean and all that she lost the night he was killed. But Nicole also talked about Nicole. She made it clear she’s not solely defined by one horrific night of her life, and wants the world to know neither is Sean.

VIBE: How are you feeling?
Nicole Paultre-Bell: Holidays are always my favorite time of year because it brings family together. I’m big on family. It’s just the way that I was brought up. November though, you know…

…is a rough month.
Yeah. It has been. Over the years, I’ve been able to learn how to move forward, learn how to just be thankful and grateful for life, for my daughters. But November is a rough time.

What kind of person was Sean? What were some of his goals?
Sean was an athlete. He was great in almost every sport, but baseball was his thing. He was a very shy guy but you would never know. I mean, from what the public has learned of Sean, it’s the tragic way his life ended. There was so much more to him. He loved baseball. He loved to be with the family. On Sundays, that was our day, family day. Every Sunday. He was a momma’s boy, and extremely handsome, but ‘don’t call me a pretty boy.’ That type of guy.


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