Sean Bell’s parents, William and Valerie, live in a small wooden house in St. Albans, Queens, a ten-minute drive from Club Kalua. A large color photo of Sean in a baseball uniform dominates their living room. They talk with Paultre every day and see their grandchildren every two weeks or so. They hold vigils on the 23rd of every month outside their local precinct house. They’ll also attend the trial.
Two weeks after Bell died, Nicole Paultre had her name legally changed to Nicole Paultre Bell. She wears the wedding ring on her left hand, and dresses in black in public. She still lives in Far Rockaway in her father’s house. She and her children live on Bell’s Social Security death benefits, along with contributions from Sharpton’s National Action Network. Her application to the state’s crime-victim-compensation fund has been rejected, but she has filed what figures to be a multimillion-dollar civil suit against the police that will start after the criminal trial is over. She and her children recently posed for a Rocawear fashion ad that includes a plea for justice signed by her. She speaks regularly at events with Sharpton.
Last month, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I met Paultre at the National Action Network headquarters in Harlem, where she shook hands with the mayor and governor and briefly addressed the crowd. Sean “was an everyday guy,” she told me afterward. “Just a guy going to work and coming home, not somebody in the spotlight. He was just Sean, you know. He worked, and he came home at night. He hung out with his friends. He played baseball. We were just normal people, me and Sean.”
Jada is now 5, and Jordyn is about to turn 2. Paultre says she takes them to Port Washington, Long Island, every week to visit their father’s grave.