Wisconsin Man Offers Indemnification For Release Of Bullet From Son’s 2004 Shooting
Lake Geneva Regional News (WI)
A Kenosha father said he would offer the City of Kenosha and its insurance carrier financial indemnification from any lawsuits he should win against the city in the future if the bullet that killed his son is released to him.
Michael M. Bell is seeking an outside independent analysis of the bullet involved in the 2004 death of his son in a Kenosha Police officer-involved shooting.
Bell Sr., of Kenosha, made the indemnification offer at Monday night's City Council meeting during public comments. It's his first time making such an offer on public record.
"Today, I am offering the City of Kenosha and its insurance carrier financial indemnification if the police bullet that killed my son is released for outside analysis," Bell Sr. said. "Our family is not seeking money."
Bell Sr. said he would pay for any lab analysis or ballistic forensics required for the bullet.
It's not clear what such lawsuits the city could face from Bell Sr. if the bullet is released and inspected by an outside agency of lab.
Bell Sr. has ramped up attacks against city administration — especially Mayor John Antaramian and City Administrator John Morrissey — in recent months after being denied access to the bullet that killed his son, Michael E. Bell Jr., for outside examination.
Bell Sr. filed suit against the city late last summer in Kenosha County Circuit Court after his requests to obtain the bullet were denied by city officials and Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley. That lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year by a Kenosha Circuit Court judge.
Bell Sr. wants the bullet in question subjected to further tests. Bell Sr. had hired Michael Haag, a nationally recognized ballistics expert with the Albuquerque, N.M., Police Department, to review evidence collected from the home's garage trim, which suggested that it sustained an impact from the bullet from the shooting. Bell has said he believes Haag's examination of the bullet would uncover more evidence toward a more accurate portrayal of how his son's death unfolded.
The younger Bell was killed by police following a traffic stop on Nov. 9, 2004, near his family home. Bell Jr. was resisting arrest at the time and police have said he was trying to grab an officer's gun. The actions of the officers involved in the incident were deemed justified after an internal investigation.
Bell Sr. and his family filed a federal civil suit in 2005. That wrongful death lawsuit was later settled out of court, and the Bells were awarded $1.75 million.
Some 10 years after the incident and with support from Bell Sr., then-Gov. Scott Walker signed a law requiring the use of independent investigators for police-involved deaths across the state.
Like last month, Bell Sr. again called for Antaramian's resignation Monday. Bell Sr. also called on any alderpersons hoping to run for the mayor's position in coming years to help him gain access to the bullet by calling for its release on Monday night.
Bell Sr. has published numerous pieces in local and national newspapers, including the New York Times, over the years, decrying the city's position in the case. He has also purchased television advertising during high-profile sports events and award shows aired by area stations.
He promised to keep the pressure up Monday if the bullet is not released by June 1.
"I will pursue all legal and financial recourse available," Bell Sr. said.
Michael Bell addresses City Council in March 2022
After Monday's meeting Antaramian addressed the issue.
"I am not quite sure what Mr. Bell is offering," Antaramian said. "The court has ruled against him on the bullet. However, the city attorney will talk with his attorney for clarification.
"For the city to consider his offer it must provide finality. If this offer is generally something that will finally resolve this matter, I will certainly discuss that option with the affected departments."
Alderperson calls for bullet's release
Near the end of Monday's meeting, Ald. Holly Kangas unexpectedly called for the bullet to be released and expressed sympathy for Bell Sr. Kangas also said she feared being "ostracized" by the rest of the City Council for taking Bell Sr. seriously during public comments.
Kangas said whenever Bell Sr. "comes to speak" before them there are "noises made." She said Bell Sr. is one of her constituents and "understands" the hostility allegedly voiced against him from her colleagues.
"Mr. Bell is nothing but a father who's crushed and wants to know the truth," Kangas said. "Tonight he said he would indemnify us. I don't know what more that we can do.
"I'm asking that you release the bullet. I know it's not the popular thing to say, but honestly, he's just a father who is terribly broken. And he needs closure. The bullet would give him closure."