Police fired 50 rounds at a car of unarmed men that were leaving a bachelor party at a strip club in New York City, killing the groom on his wedding day. The shooting drew a furious outcry from family members and community leaders.
The spray of bullets hit the car 21 times, after the vehicle had rammed into an undercover officer and then an unmarked NYPD minivan twice early on Saturday, police said.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly would not say if the collisions were what prompted police to open fire.
It was too early to say whether the shooting was justified, Kelly said.
Police thought one of the men in the car might have had a gun. But police found no weapons.
"Although it is too early to draw conclusions about this morning's shootings ... we know that the NYPD officers on the scene had reason to believe that an altercation involving a firearm was about to happen and were trying to stop it," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
Kelly said the incident stemmed from an undercover operation currently going on inside the strip club. Seven officers in plain clothes were investigating the Kalua Cabaret, and five were involved in the shooting.
A veteran officer fired his weapon 31 times, emptying two full magazines, Kelly said.
The groom, who was driving, was identified as Sean Bell, 23. Joseph Guzman, 31, was in the front seat and was shot at least 11 times.
Trent Benefield, 23, who was in the back seat, was hit three times. Both men were taken to a hospital where Guzman was in critical condition and Benefield was in stable condition.
Kelly said there may have been a fourth person in the car who fled the scene.
Three officers, including the officer hit by the car, were treated and released.
The undercover officers were inside the club to document illicit activity, Kelly said.
He said that the establishment has had a "chronic history of narcotics, prostitution and weapons complaints."
The shooting drew angry protests from family members and the well-known civil rights leader, Reverend Al Sharpton.
Sharpton went to the hospitals where the men had been taken and afterward held news conferences together with mourners.
At one conference, the civil rights advocate stood together with about two dozen members of Bell and his fiancee's families outside of the hospital.
"I will stand with this family," he said.
"This stinks. Something about the story being told did not seem right," he said.
At the same time, he added: "We're not anti-police ... we're anti-police brutality."