NYPD kills 34 year old Saheed Vassel after claiming they thought metal rod was a gun
On Wednesday, the NYPD shot and killed 34 year old Saheed Vassel after allegedly responding to calls about a man with a gun in the area. The NYPD says that they received at least three calls starting around 4:40 pm about a Black man in a brown jacket waving what appeared to be a silver gun.
The police claim that when Vassel was approached, he turned to face them, aiming the object at them, taking what officers described as a “two handed shooting stance.” One uniformed officer and three plainclothes officers fired ten shots, hitting Vassel multiple times. Police say that they shot him at 4:45pm, however on the emergency radio they said they were on the scene at around 4:42pm and called for an ambulance about 27 seconds later. The NYPD did not elaborate on that timeline when questioned by members of the media.
New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation on Thursday, his press secretary Amy Spitalnick announced this on Twitter, saying that “We’re committed to conducting an independent, comprehensive, and fair investigation.” According to witnesses, Vassel was well known in the Crown Heights community and was believed to be mentally ill, but generally regarded as harmless.
The AG’s Special Investigations & Prosecutions Unit has opened an investigation into the death of #SaheedVassell in Crown Heights yesterday, pursuant to Exec. Order 147. We’re committed to conducting an independent, comprehensive, and fair investigation.
— Amy Spitalnick (@amyspitalnick) April 5, 2018
Vassel’s parents are understandably upset at the way the police handled their son. Eric, his father told ABC affiliate WABC “Police always have a choice… They should not train them to kill. They should train them to protect life, to save life as much as possible… And the way they killed him, they didn’t give him no choice… You cannot be a cop and all you should think about is your life, you know, you will lose your life so let me take a life to save my life… And that is what is happening today in the police force.”
Lorna, his mother, tells WABC simply that “I’m really angry and I’m really upset because the police did not have to shoot my son down like that.”
The shooting comes just two weeks after Sacramento police killed Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard after claiming they thought he had a gun, though only a cellphone was recovered on the scene. It has already led to demonstrations in the NYC area, with activists paying particular attention to the problem of gentrification, as it is believed that only someone unfamiliar with the neighborhood would see Vassel as a threat.