John Chell, NYPD Director who killed Ortanzso Bovell, helps oversee police suspected of killing his brother Orenzso

On Monday, January 16 — Martin Luther King Jr Day. — Orenzso Bovell, 34, was killed in his car by an unknown assailant.

The Brooklynite boy died in his sister’s arms after he was shot on the corner of Quincy Street and Patchen Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, his mother, Lorna Wright-Bovell, told The Daily Beast.

While detectives at the NYPD local 81st precinct have yet to identify a suspect in the case, Wright-Bovell received rather unusual news Wednesday: that investigators on the case are currently working. is overseen by the sheriff, who killed her eldest son in 2008.

Nearly 14 years before Orenzso’s death, Ortanzso Bovell, a 25-year-old black man, was fatally shot by then-Lieutenant John Chell of the NYPD.

Now, Deputy Sheriff Chell has never been criminally charged with murder – which he believes was an accident – and has continued to advance in the New York City Police Department. That made him the commanding officer for the Brooklyn North detectives, essentially the indirect boss of investigators on the Orenzso case.

I don’t know if Chell can hold a grudge for 14 years.

– Lorna Wright-Bovell

Just two weeks before Orenzso was murdered, Chell appeared alongside NYC Mayor Eric Adams as part of the administration’s first major show of the budding gun violence, specifically to inform about a 17-member gang bust in Brooklyn.

But since the death of their eldest son in 2008, Wright-Bovell and others have questioned Chell’s continued growth. Most notably, in 2017, Wright-Bovell won $1.5 million from the city in a high-profile civil trial, where a jury found Chell intentionally shot and killed Ortanzso.

Civil trials have a lower standard of proof than criminal proceedings, in which an attorney must convince a jury of a party’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Last year, Wright-Bovell once again spoke out, questioning Chell’s latest ascent amid the George Floyd protests and a larger nationwide scale over police violence. Her story illustrates the complex issues that arise when politicians promise to reduce gun violence by employing the very police whose conduct has deeply damaged trust between the public and the police. close.

“I don’t know if Chell can hold a grudge for 14 years,” Wright-Bovell grievingly told The Daily Beast. “It was 2008, he killed my son. All the articles ended up where he was found [liable] kill my son and that’s all i want. But 14 years later, here I am again with Chell in my life. ”

When asked about the ethics of Chell’s involvement in the ongoing Bovell murder case, an NYPD spokesman told The Daily Beast he was not an “instant supervisor or investigator.”

The spokesperson added: “Investigators continue to actively investigate this incident and keep in touch with family members for updates.

Efforts to contact Deputy Sheriff Chell directly for comment on this story were unsuccessful, and a request for comment to the president of the Captains Sponsors Association – Chell’s union – went unanswered. .

According to the NYPD website, “county sheriffs oversee investigations conducted by district detective teams.”

Alex Vitale, a police expert and author at Brooklyn College, argues that even the mere appearance of a conflict of interest is enough to make police nervous enough to move the case under a different command structure.

“That should be important to them. They consider it important to them,” Vitale told The Daily Beast. “But I think their culture… defense and “We did nothing wrong” are outweighing that.”

For her part, a grieving Wright-Bovell told The Daily Beast that for Chell, “God is the final judge” over the killing of her eldest child. But when she heard he was tied, even indirectly, to the investigation into the murder of her youngest son, she “didn’t know what to think.”

When Chell fatally shot Ortanzso Bovell in 2008, he was a lieutenant and the head of the Brooklyn North Larceny Squad.

Illustration by Luis G. Rendon / The Daily Beast / Twitter / Facebook

According to his own account to investigators, Chell and his colleagues attempted to apprehend the elderly Bovell in a car that police believe he stole on the evening of August. Chell told both NYPD investigators and a civil trial grand jury that he accidentally pulled the trigger “during his fall to the ground” when he tripped after being hit by a cart.

The New York City Police Department and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office effectively backed his lawsuit as they quickly closed the case and never charged Chell.

But an admission during his ouster shows that Chell has yet to be interviewed by internal investigators, weeks after the case was closed. (The NYPD has suggested that this is a habit.)

These documents, and others, came to light nine years later, when Wright-Bovell would sue Chell over the death of her “loving” son and win.

During the five-week trial, witnesses and testimony from the medical examiner convinced the jury that the preponderance of the evidence showed that Chell did not accidentally fire his gun.

“I believe in the truth,” retired NYPD sex crime detective John Baeza, one of the adept witnesses who reconstructed the shooting for the civil trial, told The Daily Beast. The former cop still thinks often about his findings, shaken by what he believes to be a lack of accountability for Chell.

“What you have is you have someone” [killer]who has rose [sic] In the ranks of the New York City Police Department, where he’s Chief of Police, he’s just two steps away from becoming a three-star Sheriff and possibly chief detective,” Baeza said. Chell was never charged.

“And it stuck with me for years because of this.”

Wright-Bovell was awarded $2.5 million for Ortanzso’s death in Brooklyn civil court, where a jury determined that Chell had “willfully discharged” his weapon. Wright-Bovell ultimately accepted $1.5 million in a settlement to avoid appeal.

In a 2021 statement to THE CITY regarding Chell’s past, Chris Monahan, his union president, said the NYPD has a “very thorough investigation into every police-related shooting, ” and that successful executives like Chell at the NYPD would rise rapidly.

“And, you know, unfortunately, in this kind of work, sometimes things happen,” he said at the time.

As for Wright-Bovell, she thinks her son has been proven “unjustly killed” and wants to stand up for him – a trait she says they have in common.

“I’m sorry, but that Ortanzso, Ortanzso is like his mother. Ortanzso stand up,” Wright-Bovell said of her eldest son, whom the family calls Marlon.

She also details sensitive interactions with police, including detectives investigating Orenzso’s murders – and even mentions positive experiences Orenzso himself has had.

“I don’t like to judge and I don’t like to assume, because I don’t like someone judging me,” she said of the work detectives have done.

On one occasion, she claimed, Orenzso’s name was recognized by local officers when he was dragged in after his brother’s death.

“He said, ‘Mom, this officer[s] acting weird,” she told The Daily Beast, recalling his account. “” Look! “

“You know, that’s where Chell used to be at Utica Avenue,” says Wright-Bovell. “Where he used to be the captain. And they arrested him… and asked him, ‘What’s his name?’ He said, ‘Orenzso Bovell.’ So they think it [was] Ortanzso,” says Wright-Bovell.

“The name stands out. And he said he treated them – they treated him very well. ”

Wright-Bovell remembers Orenzso, her youngest son, who was killed earlier this year, tenderly and lovingly.

“Love, cry for everything,” she said. “A big, grown man that if I say, ‘Oh, you can’t do that to your girlfriend,’ [he’d reply], ‘Mommy. Sorry, ‘you know what? ‘ she recalled, changing her voice to sound like his frustrated tone.

But after her murder, Wright-Bovell said she struggled with the lack of news about Orenzso’s attacker.

“Now my son is dead and I realize that [Chell’s] in charge, it makes you say, ‘Huh, I don’t know!’ “

Two weeks before the youngest Bovell died, Deputy Sheriff Chell was back in the spotlight alongside Mayor Adams and other NYPD celebrities. The Brooklyn District Attorney answered questions from the press about Adams’ first major gang bust.


Illustrated by Luis G. Rendon / The Daily Beast / Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office

Since the 2008 shooting, Chell has continued to check the many boxes a cop must have in order to rise up in the department. He commanded districts 79 and 75 — the latter being the largest and most respected authority in an area struggling with gun violence — and led investigations in the southern part of the state. Brooklyn.

His most recent promotion to Borough Brooklyn North detective commanding officer, involved community members and Diversity local politiciansbut it didn’t stop his advancement.

Police work like Chell’s on homicides, drugs, and gangs is at the heart of Mayor Adams’ fight against gun violence, and Brooklyn North is a key battleground. Many areas in Brooklyn North are the target of the mayor’s new crime squads.

This year, Chell also directed the high-profile investigation into the death of Michael K. Williams, who died of a drug overdose in his Williamsburg apartment.

“Treat this case as if Michael K. Williams was hit by a bullet,” Chell recalled telling detectives from zone 90 in an interview with The Daily Beast at the time. “Believe he was shot.”

But as Mayor Adams condemned gun violence, he also condemned police violence – and promised to stay on track between supporting police and preventing misconduct. He often recounted his history of fighting against apartheid during his career as an officer.

When The Daily Beast asked the mayor’s office whether Adams felt Chell’s position and proximity to the investigation into Bovell’s death was appropriate, the mayor’s team kept quiet.

“The mayor does not participate in NYPD promotions,” said spokesman Fabien Levy.

Bovells’ mother said she was still in shock following the death of her youngest child and did not want anything to do with police work in her case. She said she even insisted on neighbors coming to her with their theory to “let the police do their job.”

She added that she was comforted by the two grandsons Orenzso had left behind; Wright-Bovell is the matriarch of 18 grandfathers and great-grandchildren.

But she also questioned whether her eldest son’s killer was allowed to investigate – or oversee the investigation – any murder.

“I work with children with autism. If I ever had one [child welfare] the case, or the arrest or the felony, if my background wasn’t clean, I wouldn’t be able to get the job, you know,” she told The Daily Beast. “And this job that he had. So someone needs to look at him. We have a change of management that can look in and see.” John Chell, NYPD Director who killed Ortanzso Bovell, helps oversee police suspected of killing his brother Orenzso


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