A 'Hole' May Have Led to Fatal Shooting of NYC Man
Beat cops knew Saheed Vassell was mentally ill, but the officers who responded may not have
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2018 7:21 AM CDT
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Rev. Kirsten Foy, National Action Network's Northeast regional director, center, prays with his young sons at a memorial on Thursday in the Brooklyn neighborhood where Saheed Vassell was shot by police a day earlier.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
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(Newser) – More details in the case of Saheed Vassell, an unarmed, mentally ill 34-year-old man shot and killed by NYC police. Four cops opened fire on Vassell in Brooklyn on Wednesday after 911 calls came in saying a man was pointing a silver firearm at people; after Vassell was shot, it was revealed the supposed gun was really a metal pipe with a showerhead attached, per NPR. The NYPD released transcripts Thursday from the 911 calls, as well as security camera footage from the Crown Heights neighborhood where the shooting took place. In the video, Vassell approaches several people on the street—including what appears to be an adult with a child—and aims what many believed to be a firearm at them. "He looks like he's crazy, but he's pointing something at people that looks like a gun and he's like popping it as if … he's pulling the trigger," one 911 transcript reads.

The city's medical examiner found Vassell was shot nine times; NYPD Chief Terence Monahan says his officers fired 10 times. That, along with the fact that Vassell was known to local cops to be mentally ill—his father tells the New York Times his son had bipolar disorder—has residents especially upset. Witnesses say the police seemed to start firing right away upon confronting Vassell; Monahan says the officers fired after Vassell took a "two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers." The Times notes while there were local beat cops who'd previously dealt with Vassell and knew of his mental illness, the officers who responded Wednesday to this more urgent call were reportedly not familiar with him—"a hole in the neighborhood policing model," per a Columbia professor. New York AG Eric Schneiderman says his office is investigating.

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