A New York man became the 330th person killed by police this year when he was fatally shot in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn Wednesday afternoon.
According to police, officers responded to several 911 calls about a man wielding a silver gun on a busy street corner. When they arrived on the scene, officers claim 34-year-old Saheed Vassell “took a two-handed shooting stance” while holding the object.
Police later learned Vassell was holding a metal rod.
“The suspect then took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers,” NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said.
The chief said four officers — three in plainclothes, one in uniform — fired 10 shots at the man.
While the officers weren’t wearing body cameras at the time, Jaccbot Hinds, who saw the shooting, said that within seconds of arriving, police began firing at Vassell.
“They just hopped out of the car. It’s almost like they did a hit, Hinds said. “They didn’t say please. They didn’t say put your hands up, nothing.”
Monahan disputed Hinds’ claim.
Vassell’s family told the New York Daily News he was a caring man who struggled with bipolar disorder.
“He hasn’t taken his medication for years,” Eric Vassell, the victim’s father, said. “We were always worried for him. We would say should anything happen to him, we just have to do what we can do.”
Andre Wilson, who’s known Vassell from the neighborhood for more than two decades, said he was harmless and well-known in the community.
“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.”
Wilson added, “The officers from the neighborhood, they know him. He has no issue with violence … This shouldn’t have happened at all.”
Vassell, a Jamaican immigrant, leaves behind a teenage son, 15-year-old Tyshawn, who said his father was an active presence in his life.
“He’s always been there for me no matter what. He’d always come check up on me, ask me if I’m good,” he said.
Tyshawn’s mother, Sherlan Smith, echoed her son’s thoughts.
“He was a good father. He wasn’t a bad person. No matter how they want to spin it, he wasn’t a bad person,” she said. “Too many Black people are dying at hands of police officers and it’s about time something be done.”