NEW YORK – Today Nicole Paultre Bell stands comfortably in the sunshine. After 10 years filled with painful heartbreak and tough struggle, she pushed on to find peace.
"I was at a point where I wanted to take my own life when Sean was killed," Nicole said. "It hurt to smile to see a nice sunny day and the adversity I faced introduced me to myself."
"It was important to me that I showed my daughter a mother who was not bitter," Bell said.
On November 25, 2006, Nicole was a young mom to two little girls – overjoyed about her wedding day. Her fiancé was on his way home from his bachelor party.
"He had the wedding rings in his coat pocket," Nicole said. "Mine and his."
But there was chaos as he left the Kalua Cabaret with two friends. Police say there was an altercation and threats of a gun. And Bell hit an undercover police officer with his car and then an unmarked police minivan. Three detectives opened fire.
"Police bullets," Nicole said. "There was not a gun, a knife. Let alone a pair of scissors in the car that night."
And just like that Bell was gone. Nicole looked into the eyes of a 3 year-old girl and had one of the toughest conversations of her life.
"For Jada it was really explaining that Daddy was in heaven and he's going to be watching over us," Bell said. "That's his new job."
Then Nicole found a new purpose.
A few days later, detectives Marc Cooper, Gescard Isnora and Michael Oliver were indicted.
"I was there every single day," Nicole said. "There wasn't a moment – there was not a day that I was not in the courtroom in the same seat every day."
"I had prepared the family that there may not be a conviction because it was a judge's trial," Rev. Al Sharpton said.
Then on April 25, 2008, all three detectives were acquitted.
When Bell heard the verdict, she felt like they "killed" Sean again.
"Again, again, they had killed Sean all over again is what it felt like," Nicole said.
"The reaction more than anything else was the beginning of a total distrust of our system of justice," lawyer Sanford Rubenstein said.
Still Nicole pressed on. In 2011, she attended NYPD administrative hearings for some of the officers involved in her fiance's death.
"The only hope I had was justice and we didn't even get that," Nicole said.
Her face was her story were often front page news – but Nicole's personal process of healing began when she embraced helping others.
"I've seen her rise to the occasion and become a spokesperson for victims who have suffered as she has." Rubenstein said.
"Every time another innocent person who loses their life it feels like a part of me wants to say 'oh my god this will never end'," Nicole said.
And each time a new video emerges that appears to show an unarmed African-American killed by a police officer.
Nicole knows she has a challenge when her daughters grow up and has to teach them to trust police and the criminal justice system when her family has gone through so much.
"It hurts me to raise a young black girl and have to say you know this, you could encounter this type of person and you have to just make it out alive," Nicole said. "That hurts."
Nicole believes Sean Bell would be so proud of the activism done over the last decade in his name.
"His legacy is New York," Nicole said. "His legacy is 'No Justice, No Peace'."
But some wounds leave deep scars that never fully fade away.
"I never really thought about it until now I'm sitting here talking to you," she said. "That you just don;t get over a loss that's great. You just learn how to live and be happy and be healthy."AlertMe