Thursday, March 20th 2008, 4:00 AM
When he lived in Georgia, Fabio Coicou had a permit to legally pack a pistol, but there's no evidence he had anything more in his pockets than his hands when he stood chest-to-chest with Sean Bell outside the Kalua Cabaret.
"It's illegal to have a gun in New York," Coicou testified. "No permit. No gun."
Yet, New York is so infested with illegal weapons from lax states like Georgia that the very fact Coicou had his hand in his pocket made at least some of Bell's friends figure he had a gun.
"Of course, I thought he had a gun," Hugh Jensen testified.
The cops apparently decided that Bell's friends were going to get a gun of their own.
No weapon was ever found, but just the fear of one triggered events that ended with cops firing 50 rounds at three unarmed men, killing Bell on what was to have been his wedding day.
However reckless the cops may have been, they would not have fired a single bullet had they not believed they faced mortal danger in the form of a gun.
And the sheer number of shots can be seen as a measure of fear.
The result becomes doubly tragic when you look across the courtroom from the Bell family to the families of the cops.
Nobody can imagine what Bell's mother, Valerie, must feel on having lost her son in such circumstances.
Only the stoniest of hearts could not also feel boundless sympathy for Gescard Isnora's mother, who watched her son dodge all the dangers and temptations of the Bushwick streets and become a dedicated cop only to end up in a defendant's chair.
If Al Sharpton and the detectives' union head Mike Palladino really want to help their constituents, they should both be crying out against the unceasing flood of illegal guns.
Imagine the impact if Sharpton and Palladino made a joint appearance with a big banner saying, "WE DEtest EACH OTHER BUT WE DEtest ILLEGAL GUNS MORE!"
Every voice is needed now more than ever, for the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to rule the Second Amendment does guarantee the right of private citizens of bear arms.
"What is reasonable about a ban on possession of handguns?" Chief Justice John Roberts inquired on Tuesday.
By all indications, the best we can hope from the court is the recognition that cities with a high incidence of violence have a right to restrict gun possession. We can be sure that lax states will remain so and that we will continue to suffer the consequences.
In court yesterday, Coicou insisted he put his hands in his pockets during the confrontation with Bell only as a signal he did not want to fight.
He also said that he did not hear any talk of a gun or the 50 gunshots that erupted around the corner not long afterward.
Maybe this mortician turned EMT is telling the truth, despite having told something very different to the district attorney.
Or maybe he in fact had a little souvenir from his time in Georgia in his hand.
Or maybe he just does not want to be the one who triggered a front page tragedy just by sticking his hands in his pockets.
Meanwhile, I invite Palladino and Sharpton to sign a joint letter to the Supreme Court.
They should say that whatever the authors of the Second Amendment intended when they put quill to parchment 221 years ago, it could not have been heartbreak like on both sides of the aisle in that courtroom in Queens.