Around 4:40 p.m. Wednesday, police received three 911 calls reporting a black man in a brown jacket pointing what was "described as a silver firearm" at people on the street in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, said Terence Monahan, the New York Police Department's chief of department.
A photograph of the metal pipe Vassell was wielding as a gun.
"The suspect then took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers", Monahan said, holding a surveillance photo of a blurry figure standing beside an ice machine with his arms outstretched.
Police say four officers fired 10 rounds at Vassell after he crouched and pointed the object at them. The city's medical examiner found he was hit seven to nine times, including one shot to the head. In security camera images released by the police, the L-shaped length of pipe looked remarkably like a firearm.
The officers who responded to Mr. Vassell on Wednesday didn't know him or of his mental health history, a police official said. "He comes to hang out in the barbershop, you know what I mean?"
Protesters rallied at the scene of the shooting on Montgomery Street and Utica Avenue Thursday night and marched to the 71st Precinct to call for justice for Vassell. "They should train them to protect life, to save life as much as possible".
Police on Thursday released an edited video showing some of what led up to the shooting.
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"He's mentally ill but don't mess with anybody", resident O'Neil Headley said. They didn't say put your hands up, drop your gun, nothing.' Hinds said.
"People in the community thought he had a weapon and was aiming at residents", said de Blasio, a Democrat.
Vassell's death came weeks after cops killed an unarmed black California man, whom they mistook as carrying a gun when responding to alleged reports of vandalism, shooting him to death in his backyard. The transcripts displayed show several callers referring to a possible gun in his hand. After the shooting, the officers can be heard frantically calling for dispatchers to send an ambulance.
Reports indicate that police officers opened fire on the man after he turned around to face them.
"He was like a child".
Andre Wilson, 38, who has known Vassell for 20 years, told the nydailynews that Vassell was mentally challenged but harmless. "And the way they killed him, they didn't give him no choice", he continued. They should not train them to kill.
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Vassell's father told WABC-TV that his son was bipolar and had not been taking his medication at the time of his death.
A family friend, Berrest Biggs, said he learned of the shooting through social media.
"I said, 'Is that Saheed?' " Biggs said.
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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.
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