Four New York Police Department officers` shot and killed 34-year old Saheed Vassell in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn today. Police alleged that Vassell, a black man described by a witness as “mentally challenged,” was holding a “metal pipe with some sort of knob on the end of it,” and pointed it at them before they fired.
The New York Daily News reports:
Officers responded to three 911 calls that came in about 4:40 p.m. about a black man wearing a brown leather jacket waving a silver gun at people on the corner of Utica Ave. and Montgomery St., Chief of Department Terrence Monahan said at a press conference.
When the officers — two of them in uniform — got to the street corner, the man faced them, aiming the object at them, Monahan said.
“The suspect then took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers,” the chief said.
Four NYPD officers—one uniformed, three plainclothesed—then fired ten shots at Vassell, hitting him “multiple times.” Monahan said officers “immediately” tried to resuscitate him and called for an ambulance, but Vassell later died at the hospital. The Daily News reports that no weapon was found at the scene.
“Blood was everywhere,” a witness named Chris told the Daily News. “They put him on his back and they tried to compress his chest but he was gone.”
The New York Times spoke to a witness who described what happened:
Jaccpot Hinds, 40, said he was walking south on Utica Avenue near the intersection when he saw an unmarked police car pass him and cross both lanes of traffic near where a man was standing on a street corner.
A plainclothes officer in the passenger seat got out of the car and fired at the man several times, Mr. Hinds said. The officer appeared to shoot him in the neck, chest and right arm, Mr. Hinds said.
“All I saw was the torch coming out of his gun,” he said. “About nine times.”
The victim was reportedly well-known in the neighborhood. “He speaks to himself, usually he has an orange bible or a rosary in his hand. He never had a problem with anyone,” one witness told the Daily News. “The officers from the neighborhood, they know him. He has no issue with violence. Everybody just knows he’s just mentally challenged. This shouldn’t have happened at all.”
“This is officers facing an incident on the street, let’s stay focused on what they did today,” Monahan said at the press conference, in response to a question from a reporter about Vassell being known in the neighborhood as someone who was emotionally disturbed. “This was not an emotionally disturbed call...we have to stay straight on the facts of this incident today.”
According to the Washington Post database of police shootings, 284 people nationwide have been shot and killed by police so far this year, although that didn’t appear to reflect today’s shooting. According to Daily News, the last “emotionally disturbed” person to be shot and killed by NYPD was 66-year old Deborah Danner in the Bronx in 2016. The NYPD officer who killed her, Hugh Barry, was acquitted of all charges in February.
We reached out to the NYPD and will update with any response we receive.