New York police shot unarmed man, mistaking pipe for gun

06 April, 2018, 04:26 | Author: Larry Hoffman
  • The victim was shot multiple times in Crown Heights Brooklyn

Here in NY, police officers responding to a 911 call shot dead a mentally troubled African-American man on a street corner in Brooklyn on Thursday.

The state's Attorney General's Office says it is investigating after police fatally shot a man neighbors say was mentally ill, reports CBS New York.

Five officers - three of them in street clothes, two in uniform - were responding to three 911 calls about a man threatening people with a silver gun near the corner of Montgomery Street and Utica Avenue in Crown Heights, Terence Monahan, the chief of the department, said at a news conference. They report that they thought Vassell was holding a gun, when, in fact, he was holding a metal pipe with a knob on it.

The video released Thursday shows Saheed Vassell aggressively pointing an object at pedestrians that turned out to be an L-shaped piece of pipe. Hinds said a plainclothes officer got out of the passenger seat of the vehicle and fired at the man numerous times. Of note, none of the officers were wearing body cameras at the time of the incident, Monahan said.

Vassell's father, Eric Vassell, told the New York Daily News that his son was bipolar and had struggled with the disorder for years.

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Police say the shooting, which took place on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, was a justified response based on the evidence received at the time.

"The message to police departments from coast to coast is loud and clear: you can not treat someone as a suspect based on their faith", said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy group that represented the plaintiffs.

Four officers fired their weapons, hitting the suspect.

"He hasn't taken his medication for years", Eric Vassell, the victim's father, said. "We would say should anything happen to him, we just have to do what we can do". "He speaks to himself, usually he has an orange Bible or a rosary in his hand".

By mid-afternoon Thursday, more than 1,000 people had indicated on Facebook that they would attend a rally later in the day to demand justice for Vassell.

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Vassell was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"I did not know Saheed Vassell well by any stretch of the imagination, but I have said hello to him almost every day since moving to this neighborhood several years ago", she wrote. "You would never catch him down", Tyshawn said. "He never had a problem with anyone". Trying to find an officer familiar with Vassell "in that moment of emergency" was "already very, very late in the trajectory", he said.

"I'm hopeful there are lessons to be learned from this", said W. Deen Shareef, convener of the Council of Imams in New Jersey and a plaintiff in the case.

His killing followed the deadly shooting by police of an unarmed black guy, Stephon Clark, 2-2, in Sacramento, California, who has sparked a lot more than two months of presentations.

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