The New York Police Department (NYPD) cops reportedly shot and killed a bipolar black man in Brooklyn on Wednesday who was waving a metal pipe at passerby, according to reports. The cops said that they were responding to 911 calls for a man with a gun and that they saw the black man taking a "two-handed shooting stance" and pointed the object at them, according to reports.
The incident comes on the heels of a fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Sacramento, California last month. Sacramento police officers fired at least 20 shots at 24-year-old Stephon Clark, who was standing in his grandmother's backyard. The case sparked outrage in the region, where hundreds of demonstrators rallied for justice last week and protested against police shootings of unarmed black men.
The man, 34-year-old Saheed Vassell, was a welder and the father of a teenage boy, according to NY Daily News. Eric Vassell, 63, the slain man’s father, said that his son struggled with bipolar disorder, but refused treatment. “He hasn’t taken his medication for years,” the father said.
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, at a press conference, said that the cops were responding to three 911 calls about a black man wearing a brown jacket, waving what people thought was a silver gun on the corner of Utica Ave. and Montgomery St.
The police chief added that when the officers reached the location, Vassell turned towards them and pointed the object at them. Monahan said that four cops fired at least 10 shots at Vassell, hitting him at around 4:45 pm on Wednesday.
"The suspect then took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers,” Monahan said. The police chief made the statement while holding a surveillance photo of a figure standing next to a bodega ice machine with his arms outstretched, reports state.
Monahan said that four cops fired at least 10 shots at Vassell, hitting him at around 4:45 pm on Wednesday. The officials then called for an ambulance. Vassell was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police said that no firearm was found at the scene of the incident and that Jamaica-born Vassell had been holding a metal pipe with a knob on the end instead.
According to a witness of the shooting, Jaccbot Hinds, the officers reportedly jumped out of their unmarked police car and fired at the man without any warning. "They just hopped out of the car. It’s almost like they did a hit. They didn’t say please. They didn’t say put your hands up, nothing," Hinds said, according to NY Daily News.
The NYPD did not elaborate when asked whether officers warned Vassell before firing shots at him. Reports state that none of the officers were wearing body cameras at the time. Vassell's family members said they were distraught by the incident. The hospital staff reportedly refused to let them see Vassell's body.
"He’s always been there for me no matter what,” Vassell's 15-year-old son Tyshawn said. “He’d always come check up on me, ask me if I’m good. He cared for everybody. If you saw him, he’d always be in a laughing mood. You would never catch him down."