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NYPD Shoots and Kills Mentally Ill Black Man After Mistaking a Metal Pipe for a Gun

Photo Credit: Pacific Press/Getty Images

NYPD officers shot and killed 33-year-old Saheed Vassell in Crown Heights, Brooklyn yesterday after receiving three 911 calls about an armed man walking through the neighborhood. 

According to the NY Daily News, officers responded to multiple calls regarding a man walking the streets with an object that resembled a gun at the intersection of Utica Ave. and Montgomery St. 

“There is a guy in a brown jacket walking around pointing —I don’t know, (to someone else) what is he pointing in people’s face? They say it’s a gun, it’s silver,” one caller told police dispatch. 

Another witness called police, saying, “There’s a guy walking around the street. He looks like he’s crazy, but he’s pointing something at people that looks like a gun and he’s like popping it as if…he’s pulling the trigger.”

When officers arrived, they saw Vassell, and, according to a source on the scene, “all they knew was that he fit the description and had what appeared to be a gun in his hands.” Unaware of any sort of mental illness that might have been present, or what what object was truly in his hand, authorities shot the Saheed nine times.

By the time the shots were done being fired, the 34-year-old Brooklynite took two bullets to the chest, and single shots to his head, stomach, and arms. The city’s medical examiner report later confirmed that Vassell also endured three shots below waist. 

However, like many cases we’ve seen, and contrary to the 911 calls, Vassell was not waving around a gun. He was holding and pointing a semi-curved metal object. Vassell was also bi-polar. 

Details about the incident are still being released, but an eyewitness named Jesus Santiago said an “estimated 20 to 30 seconds elapsed from the time police arrived till shots were fired.” 

He continued, “Everything happened so fast. The officers arrived and somebody said, ‘He’s got a gun.’ Nobody said nothing to him. They just started shooting.”

Unfortunately, this saga is too familiar.

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