On the 50th anniversary of MKL’s assassination and less than a month after police officers killed unarmed black man Stephon Clark in his own backyard, cops in New York City fatally shot Saheed Vassell, another black man, in the middle of the street after mistaking a piece of metal pipe for a firearm.
The NYPD officers shot at him more than 10 times.
The 36-year-old police brutality victim, who had a 15-year-old son, was a well-known figure in the neighborhood and reportedly suffered from mental health issues — a fact that most people in the neighborhood were apparently well aware of, 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,” neighbor Andre Wilson said shortly after his death. “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.”
As the New York Daily News reported, Vassell had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but his mental condition worsened after the death of his best friend Ortanzso (Marlon) Bovell nearly 10 years ago. In a cruel twist of fate, Vassell died the same way Bovell did: at the hands of the NYPD, less than a mile away on the same Brooklyn streets.
Bovell's death was in 2008 when the 25-year-old reportedly clipped NYPD Inspector John Chell while fleeing on a stolen 2004 Mustang GT. Chell said he fell from the impact and his weapon, which he was holding at the time, discharged and hit the suspect in the back, killing him.
As is usual in such cases, Chell wasn’t charged in Bovell’s death. However, a civil court jury awarded $2.5 million to the victim’s family after ruling the officer had “intentionally discharged” his gun, according to the publication.
The incident traumatized Vassell.
“Seriously that was the last moment in time I remember him happy,” Bovell’s sister Leesh said of Vassell. “He wasn’t an angry person. He was depressed mentally. They were friends forever. He hasn’t been the same since Marlon died.”
Vassell was fatally shot in the Crown Heights after at least three 911 callers reported a man “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.”
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.”
The victim was taken to Kings County Hospital, where the doctors pronounced him dead.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Lucas Jackson