A civil lawsuit filed in Kenosha County Circuit Court accuses the Kenosha police officer who shot and killed Michael Bell Jr. in 2004 of libel for mistruths he allegedly wrote in a book about the incident.
Bell’s father, Michael Bell, filed the suit against Albert Gonzales, who in March published a book titled, “A Fateful Two Minutes,” that recounts the events of Nov. 9, 2004.
Gonzales, one of four officers involved in the incident, was the one who shot and killed the younger Bell after a traffic stop.
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages, along with court costs and attorney fees. The case is scheduled to return to court Feb. 23, 2021, at 10 a.m., before Judge Chad Kerkman.
“It’s a family’s worst nightmare, and now I have an officer writing a book about how he killed my child,” Bell said. “I’m standing up for that. He’s monetizing this, and more importantly, he’s putting untruths in there.
“I’m alleging that he communicates untrue, malicious and defamatory material in writing in the third person. Once again, I’m going to stand up for my son and my family.”
Bell, who was awarded a $1.75 million settlement in a federal wrongful death suit regarding the shooting, said he continues to push for the truth in the case, and that pursuit will never stop until he gets it.
“I think the public needs to be aware that we’ve probably reached a new low when a government employee can kill a citizen, write a book about it and try to monetize that,” he said. “We need to make sure that doesn’t occur.
“We’re still seeking the truth. ... This is about learning the truth. One of the things that bothered me is that, in the book itself, he talks about how attorneys taught him how to evade answers. I have his deposition, and the first 10 minutes of this deposition in April of 2007, he answered 15 times, ‘I don’t recall, I don’t remember’ about how he shot my son, but now he writes a whole book about it.”
Gonzales declined to comment for this article.
The lawsuit accuses Gonzales of writing a number of defamatory statements in his 102-page book that is available on Amazon.
“The book contains demonstrable falsehoods and misquotes, twisted to present Mr. Bell in a false light,” the suit states.
In one instance, the book quotes Bell as saying, “I wanted officer Gonzales to pay, I wanted his family to know the pain he caused us!” with respect to what the officer wrote when Bell placed a picture of his son and sign he had made on Gonzales’s porch.
Bell testified at the deposition that, he actually had placed a table ornament on the porch.
“That table ornament was something that my son created, and I saved it for his wedding day,” he testified. “It was going to be a gag gift. And on the first anniversary of his death, I was in deep pain, and I wanted Officer Gonzales to understand the tremendous pain that he caused my family.”
The lawsuit states that the misquote changes the meaning of the statement and “conveys an attitude of vengeance and retribution that Mr. Bell does not hold.”
There are other examples listed in the suit that stray from what was said in the deposition, Bell said.
“He had access to the material, he had access to the recordings, and he chose not to report on them accurately,” he said.
On the jacket for the book, Gonzales describes himself as a Christian father and grandfather, a 20-year veteran of a Midwest Police Department, a law enforcement and civilian firearms instructor, and a Bible teacher at his church.
Gonzales also reportedly describes in the book how he felt at the moment that he fired his weapon.
According to the lawsuit, he described his reaction on page 10:
“My mind started flipping through its pages trying to normalize what was going on. The bloody pool made my mind flash to every deer I had ever killed. Up until this time as an officer, I had pulled my gun on many a suspect, but never had to shoot. The only things I killed in my life were game animals.
“Yaay — woo hoo! I did it! I cheered inside my head, as though I scored a winning touchdown.
“Are you crazy? You just killed somebody! was my next thought.
“Yeah! but I did it, I did it! The other part of me answered back.
“You’re crazy. You just killed someone! You going to be in trouble — maybe even fired! I tried to shake the thoughts out of my head.”
Excerpts like that one and other portions of the book evoked several raw emotions as he read it, Bell said.
“A gut reaction was it was nauseous, it was sickening, it was vulgar,” he said. “When somebody writes that type of thing about your child, especially in this environment right now with what is going on with law enforcement, you have to imagine how hard it was for me to read that book.”
Bell is being represented by attorney Christopher M. Mueler of Wauwatosa.
Deneen Smith contributed to this report.
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