NYC police defend fatal shooting with video, 911 transcripts – Suspect had mental-health issues, pointed gun-like object at several people

This April 5, 2018 surveillance video image provided by the New York Police Department shows Saheed Vassell brandishing a metal object at the scene where officers fatally shot him after he was reported to be threatening people with a gun, which turned out to be a metal pipe that police mistook for a firearm, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Vassell pointed the object at the arriving officers in what police officials described as a "two-handed shooting stance," four opened fire, shooting a combined 10 times. (New York Police Department via AP)

By TOM HAYS,  Associated Press  NEW YORK (AP) 04/06 — Police seeking to quell simmering anger over their shooting of a mentally disturbed black man on a New York City street released a montage of security videos Thursday that showed him minutes earlier thrusting a metal object that looked like a gun into the faces of several people — including a woman holding the hand of her child.

A final video snippet showed the man raising the object in a two-handed shooting stance as police arrived, the edited video frozen just before officers unleashed 10 shots that left 34-year-old Saheed Vassell dead. His weapon turned out to be nothing more than an L-shaped section of pipe.

The shooting in Brooklyn on Wednesday evening prompted two nights of protests among many who felt police should have known that Vassell, a fixture in the Crown Heights neighborhood, had emotional problems.

But Mayor Bill De Blasio didn’t lay blame on the officers, who were not from the local precinct and were passing through at the time. He said they had no information that the person they were confronting was mentally ill.

“It’s a tragedy because a man with a profound mental health problem … was doing something that people perceived to be a threat to the safety of others,” de Blasio said at a news conference shortly before the images and a partial transcript of 911 calls were released.

“What we have seen from the images that are publicly available, people in the community thought he had a weapon and was aiming it at residents,” the mayor said. “That’s the kind of calls, multiple calls, that NYPD received.

According to the transcripts, one caller to 911 reported that Vassell “looks like he’s crazy but he’s pointing something at people that looks like a gun.”

“Where is the gun?” a dispatcher asked one caller. “His hand,” the caller replied.

In police radio traffic posted online, dispatchers directing officers to the scene said 911 callers were reporting only that a person was pointing a gun at people. After the shooting, the officers can be heard frantically calling for dispatchers to send an ambulance.

The release of the edited material on the New York Police Department’s Twitter account — the full videos and transcripts weren’t immediately provided — was meant to back up claims by the police department that the four plainclothes and two uniformed officers who responded had a legitimate reason to believe they needed to move swiftly to stop a deadly threat.

The material released by the department didn’t answer questions about whether the officers had identified themselves or ordered the victim to drop the object before they opened fire. The city’s medical examiner found he was hit seven to nine times, including one shot to the head.

At a vigil Thursday night, Vassell’s mother, Lorna, said her son “came from a good home” and that he was not homeless.

Vassell’s father, Eric, told reporters that his son had been hospitalized several times for psychiatric problems, some involving encounters with the police, but that he was polite and kind.

“Police had a choice. They always have a choice. They should not train them to kill. They should train them to protect life, to save life,” Eric Vassell said in an interview with WABC-TV.

Neighborhood resident Clinton Dyer shouts, “He was innocent!” as he interrupts community leaders speaking, Thursday April 5, 2018, at a vigil for Saheed Vassell, a 34-year-old welder and father of a teenage son who was fatally shot by New York Police Department officers on Wednesday, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

 

People react to the news after police officers shot and killed a man in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in New York, while responding to reports of a man threatening people with a gun. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

 

A tense crowd gathered after the shooting, with some people shouting at officers and decrying the killing as another example of an unarmed black man dying at the hands of police officers who overreacted.

On Thursday, Ruta Deshong, who owns a reggae record shop on the same block where Vassell lived, said she had known him since he was a young boy and that the police who normally patrol the neighborhood knew him well.

“If they had said, ‘Drop your weapon,’ he would have,” Deshong said. “The officers in the neighborhood know him. He’s all around the place. They know he’s not trouble.”

A family friend, Berrest Biggs, said he learned of the shooting through social media.

“I said, ‘Is that Saheed?'” Biggs said. “He was like a child. … This kid didn’t bother nobody.”

New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, announced that he would investigate the shooting.

Under an executive order issued by the governor in 2015, the attorney general has the power to act as a special prosecutor in cases involving police killings of unarmed people.

Schneiderman’s spokeswoman, Amy Spitalnick, promised “an independent, comprehensive and fair investigation.”

The shooting comes after the police killing of an unarmed black man on March 18 in Sacramento, California, sparked two weeks of protests and calls for police reform. Stephon Clark, 22, was shot by officers responding to a report of someone breaking car windows. Police said they thought he had a gun, but he was carrying only a cellphone.

___

Associated Press writer David Jeans contributed to this report.

https://www.apnews.com/0c70371750ed47049278e7f03110fc75/NYC-police-defend-fatal-shooting-with-video,-911-transcripts

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Posted in: Attacks on Police, Black Lives Matter, Civilian Complaints, Community Relations, Firearms, Mental Illness, Officer Safety, Police, Public Safety, Racial Issues, Shootings, Surveillance, Use of Deadly Force, Video

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eleven − ten =

Terms of Use for Posting Comments

Terms of Use

This site (the “Site”) is operated and maintained by Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Corporation (“Company”). Throughout the Site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Company.  The words “user,” “you” and “your” as used herein refer to you.

Please read these terms and conditions of use (“Terms of Use”) carefully before contributing content. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not contribute content. Your use of the Site is subject to the Terms and Conditions found here .

By contributing content to the Site, you represent and warrant that you are at least eighteen (18) years old and that you have read and understand these Terms of Use and any amendments thereto and agree to be bound by them. If you are not at least eighteen (18) years old or you do not agree and accept these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from contributing content.

From time to time, we may permit users to submit content to the Site.  You hereby acknowledge and agree that by submitting remarks, comments, suggestions, ideas, graphics, feedback, edits, concepts, comments, photographs, illustrations and other materials (other than personal information and/or registration information) through the Site (individually and collectively, “Submissions”), you (i) grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter created, without attribution to you; (ii) grant us the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your and/or our rights in your Submissions; and (iii) forever waive any and all of your rights, including but not limited to moral rights, if any, in and to your Submissions, including, without limitation, any all rights or requirements of attribution or identification of you as the author of the Submission or any derivative thereof.  We reserve the right to remove any of your Submissions from the Site, in whole or in part, without notice to you, for any reason or no reason.

Submissions are made voluntarily. Any submissions which include personally identifiable information are subject to our Privacy Policy found here .  You may not upload or otherwise publish content on the Site that (i) is confidential to you or any third party; (ii) is untrue, inaccurate, false or other than an original work of your authorship; (iii) that relates to or impersonates any other person; (iv) violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of any person or entity; (v) contains any content, personally identifiable information or other information, or materials of any kind that relate or refer to any other person or entity other than the provider of the products, goods or services to which the Submission relates; or (vi) violates any law, or in any manner infringes or interferes with the rights of others, including but not limited to the use of names, information, or materials that (A) libel, defame, or invade the privacy of any third party, (B) are obscene or pornographic, (C) are harmful, threatening, offensive, abusive, harassing, vulgar, false or inaccurate, racially, sexually, ethnically or are otherwise objectionable or otherwise contrary to the laws of any place where such Submissions may be accessed; (D) constitute personal attacks on other individuals; (E) promote criminal, immoral or illegal activity; (F) promote or advertise any person, product or service or solicit funds; or (G) are deemed confidential by any contract or policy.

You are solely responsible for any Submissions you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any Submissions posted by you or any third party.

Unless approved by us in writing in advance, you agree not to: (i) provide or create a link to the Site; or (ii) create any frames at any other sites pertaining to any of the content located on the Site.

We reserve the right, in our discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Use for Posting Comments by posting updates and/or changes to our Site.  It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes.  Your continued use of, and/or access to the Site, following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Use for Posting Comments, constitutes your acceptance of those changes.