Tedock Bell had moved to Newark from North Carolina in 1963 and worked two jobs in the city to provide for he, his wife Edna, and four children. During the week, Bell worked full-time as a machinist in a plastics factory, and on the weekends, tended bar at Ben’s Tavern on Bergen Street. It was down the block from Ben’s Tavern that Tedock Bell was fatally shot by a Newark police officer in the early morning hours of Friday, July 14th.
As the rebellion entered its second night on Thursday, July 13th, Tedock Bell sat on the front stoop of 411 Bergen Street, where he and his family lived, with his wife Edna Clair Bell, sister-in-law, Fannie Bell Edwards, brother-in-law Robert Johnson, and friend Minnie Gordon. The group stayed on the stoop until about 2:30 A.M., when Tedock, Edna, Fannie, and Robert took a short walk down Bergen Street to see what, if anything, had happened to Ben’s Tavern that night.
After peeking through the window of the bar, the group continued down Bergen toward Magnolia Street to check out the scene at a grocery store on the corner that had been looted earlier that night. At this point, a police car arrived in front of the store, a patrolman go out, and fired his revolver into the sky to clear away the crowd. Frightened by the gunfire, Fannie Bell Edwards returned to the stoop, while Tedock Bell stayed in front of the store.
“I went home and sat on the stoop for about 3 or 5 minutes,” Edwards stated in her deposition for the Essex County Grand Jury. “Then an unmarked Newark police car came by with five or seven policemen in the car with uniforms with white helmets. They jumped out of the car and I saw Tedock running away from in front of the store, down Magnolia Street.
Police jumped out behind him and I saw one police, about five yards behind Tedock, raise his pistol and aim it at Tedock and shoot. I heard three shots. I saw Tedock running up Magnolia a few seconds before the policeman shot. Tedock had nothing in his hands. When the policeman shot, Tedock was around the corner and out of my sight.”
Lavenia Darby, a resident of 104 Magnolia Street, heard this gunfire ring out and ran to her front door to see Tedock Bell fall behind her brother’s car, which was parked parallel to the curb in front of the house next door. According to Darby, “I saw the man get up and walk to the corner, alone; a trail of blood was coming from his body. He fell at the corner of Magnolia Street and Fairview Avenue.”
Tedock Bell was dead at the age of 28 after having been shot by Newark police for being Black in the vicinity of a looted store. There was no curfew in place at this time. Ms. Darby’s brother, Arthur Howard who was visiting from Georgia, put Bell into his car and drove him to the hospital after police drove by Bell’s lifeless body at the corner of Magnolia and Fairview. ‘Damn,’ Howard said, ‘they ain’t no different up here than they are down home.’
The Essex County Grand Jury found “no cause for indictment” of the officers involved.
Ronald Porambo, No Cause for Indictment: An Autopsy of Newark
Notes of Newark Legal Services Project Interview of Lavenia Darby
Witness Testimony of Fannie Bell Edwards before the Essex County Grand Jury