A New York City police officer fired five shots that killed a man on a Brooklyn street on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, after they saw him with a metal object that looked like a shower head in his hand, police sources said.
The victim, Saheed Vassell, 34, was reportedly holding a metal pipe or shower head that the approaching officers mistook for a gun but he turned out to be unarmed.
The shooting, at the corner of Montgomery Street and Utica Avenue in Crown Heights Brooklyn, provoked an angry response from residents on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
A crowd formed at the scene, just outside a barrier of blue tape, where citizens began shouting at police and pointing out the officer some believed to be responsible, expressing anger in Brooklyn and drawing nationwide attention as the latest police killing of an unarmed black man.
Police say they responded to a call about an emotionally disturbed black man who was reportedly waving a gun at a local street corner, but there was no weapon found after the shooting.
Witnesses told police the man had “something in his jacket,” sources said.
The officer fired at least five shots, striking the victim several times and shattering a window at Chucky Fresh Market.
NYPD Chief Charles Scholl confronted crowds after the mentally disturbed man was killed by police officers.
Vassell’s father, Eric Vassell, told The New York Times his son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and police said he had been classified as an emotionally disturbed person in previous encounters.
Vassell lived with his family in a Crown Heights apartment and had a 15-year-old son.
Four officers fired a total of 10 rounds, striking Vassell, who was pronounced dead at a hospital; four officers were treated for minor injuries.
Dozens of police cars converged on the area, and a crowd of about 200 people gathered around the cordoned-off intersection, said 33-year-old resident Shaya Tenenbaum.
Andre Wilson, 38, said that he had known the victim for 20 years, describing him as a quirky neighborhood character.
“All he did was just walk around the neighborhood,” Wilson said. “He speaks to himself, usually he has an orange Bible or a rosary in his hand. He never had a problem with anyone.”
“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,” Wilson said.
The shooting follows the police killing of another unarmed black man in Sacramento, California. That March 18 incident 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 when he was confronted in his grandmother’s back yard.
Pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu conducted an autopsy commissioned by Clark’s family, found that he was hit by eight bullets — six in the back, one in the neck and one in the thigh — and took three to 10 minutes to die.
Sacramento police waited about five minutes before rendering medical aid.
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