A mentally ill Black man was fatally shot by New York City police officers in Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon. Police believed the man pointed a gun at them; however, the object was actually a metal pipe, leading many to wonder what they would have done.
Five officers — three of them in street clothes as part of a special crime unit — responded after receiving three 911 calls about a man threatening people with a silver gun, Police Chief Terence A. Monahan said at a news conference.
Upon arriving on the scene, police found a man who matched descriptions from the 911 reports.
“The suspect then took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers,” Chief Monahan told reporters.
Chief Monahan said four of the officers — three plain clothes and one uniformed— fired 10 bullets towards the man, who was later identified by his father as Saheed Vassell, 34.
Vassell was pronounced dead after being taken to Kings County Medical Center.
Vassell’s father, Eric Vassell, told the New York Times his son had bipolar disorder and had been admitted to the hospital multiple times in recent years.
The Police Department had encountered Vassell on previous occasions and classified him as emotionally disturbed.
Area residents said Vassell was a familiar figure on the corner and was widely known to be mentally ill. People said Vassell would sometime pick objects up off the street and play with them like toys.
(Photo: New York Police Department)