RIP #SaheedVassell, a 34yo Black Muslim, father to a 15yo son, shot nine times, murdered by NYPD cops who according to neighbors, knew he was mentally challenged & posed no danger to them or anyone else. #CrownHeights #Brooklyn #NYC pic.twitter.com/N9ko0321oB— Blocked by AIPAC (@Delo_Taylor) April 5, 2018
On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and less than a month after police officers killed an unarmed black man in his own backyard in California after mistaking his cellphone for a gun, cops in New York City fatally shot another black man in the middle of the street after mistaking a piece of metal pipe for a firearm.
As is usual in such cases of police brutality, the victim was an unarmed African-American man who reportedly suffered from mental health issues – a fact that most people in the neighborhood were apparently well aware of. He was shot at 10 times by four NYPD officers.
The tragic incident took place in the Crown Heights in Brooklyn after at least three 911 callers reported a “man was pointing a silver firearm at people on the street,” according to NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan. The man was described as “a male black, wearing a brown jacket.”
When five police officers, including three in plainclothes, arrived at the scene, they saw a man matching the description standing at the intersection.
“The suspect then took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers, two of whom were in uniform,” the police chief added. “Four of the officers then fired a total of 10 rounds, striking the man, who was later found to be holding a “pipe with some sort of knob at the end.”
The victim has been identified as Saheed Vassell, a 36-year-old Muslim father. The cops later figured out he wasn’t holding a silver firearm but “a pipe with some sort of knob on the end of it.” Some social media users claim it was shower head.
He was taken to Kings County Hospital, where the doctors pronounced him dead.
Vassell, who reportedly has a 15-year-old son, was a well-known figure in the neighborhood. Apparently, a lot of people knew about his mental illness, including some neighborhood officers.
“All he did was just walk around 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,” victim’s neighbor Andre Wilson told the Daily News.
He said he had known Vassell for 20 years and described him as a “quirky neighborhood character” while expressing his utter shock at the senseless killing.
“The officers from the neighborhood, they know him,” Wilson continued. “He has no issue with violence. Everybody just knows he’s just mentally challenged. This shouldn’t have happened at all.”
It is also important to mention none of the officers were wearing body camera at the time of the fatal shooting.
While still images from the surveillance footage appear to show a man holding a metal pipe as police officers approach him, the question is, why couldn’t the officers contain the man without lethal use of force?
Not to mention, what kind of police officers can’t distinguish between a firearm and a metal pipe?
Following the tragic shooting, scores of residents gathered at the scene to raise their voice against the officers’ brutal response.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office also sent out a tweet in response to the killing.
Mayor de Blasio has received a preliminary briefing on the officer-involved shooting in Crown Heights.— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) April 4, 2018
Meanwhile, social media users expressed their anger and frustration towards the continued police shootings involving unarmed black men.
If you can't find another way to handle a dude with a shower head other than murdering him, you're not "protecting and serving" anyone. Fear for one's life comes with the territory of being a cop. Risk assessment and de-escalation skills are supposed to as well. #CrownHeights— Rebecca Bitton (@rebeinstein) April 5, 2018
#NYPD just shot and killed someone in Brooklyn, on Utica Ave & Montgomery. They shot him 9x. In the middle of the day. In the middle of the street.— the movement oprah (@blackboikei) April 4, 2018
#NYPD shot an unarmed Black muslim man who also had disabilities in #CrownHeights 9 Times today. There is no reason behind this violence. Gentrification like settlements requires removal and heavy policing of the people. May he Rest In Peace and power— Noura?? (@nkfarouq) April 4, 2018
So #NYPD shoots a man in Crown Heights with a showerhead in hand. With out saying stop, put your hands up, freeze or anything of that sort. What kind of training are you giving this ppl???— Wiredell Hill (@prettyboydellz8) April 5, 2018
#SaheedVassell was executed by the NYPD because they cannot properly de-escalate a situation wherein a person of color having a mental health crisis.— Colin_Bites, Former SUR Hostess (@Colin_Bites) April 5, 2018
#SaheedVassell is one of the things that happen when gentrification isn’t checked. The neighborhood knew he was troubled. The new neighborhood called the police.— Worokya Duncan Ed.D. (@DrDuncanHistory) April 5, 2018
#SaheedVassell was shot & murdered by police. He also had mental disabilities & was well known and loved in his neighborhood. He had a child.The police working for US empire are the enemies of the people. On the 50th anniversary of MLKs assassination they continue to show us this— Noura?? (@nkfarouq) April 5, 2018
Imagine if we could have community-based mental health outreach workers as first responders, instead of heavily armed trigger-happy or overly-fearful police.— Kumar Rao (@KumarRaoNYC) April 5, 2018
RIP #SaheedVassell https://t.co/WENhJpfrIk
Thumbnail Credits: Office Of The Deputy Commissioner, Public Information
Banner Credits: Instagram @johnnyg1rl via Reuters