NYPD releases surveillance video, 911 calls in police shooting of Brooklyn man
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The NYPD received multiple reports Wednesday of a man walking through Crown Heights, Brooklyn pointing what appeared to be a handgun at people. Five officers responded to the 911 calls. As NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan described the situation when they approached Saheed Vassell . . .

“The suspect took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers, two of whom were in uniform.”

Four of the officers sent a total of ten rounds at Vassell, killing him. The silver thing he’d been holding turned out to be a pipe with a knob on one end.

Vassell’s family reports that he was mentally ill.

Vassell’s father, Eric, told reporters after the shooting that his son was bipolar and wasn’t taking his medication, but was not dangerous and did not deserve to die. According to the father, Vassell had been hospitalized several times for psychiatric problems, some involving encounters with the police, but was polite and kind.

“Police had a choice. They always have a choice. They should not train them to kill. They should train them to protect life, to save life,” Eric Vassell said in an interview with WABC-TV.

While a father’s grief is certainly understandable, the fact is that police officers have to respond to threats in a fraction of a second. Training and muscle memory kick in when the brain doesn’t have the luxury of time to analyze a situation. They just have to hope and pray that their instincts were correct.

Fortunately for officers and the department, much of what Vassell was up to Wednesday afternoon was captured by surveillance cameras. Here’s the video they released:

Video surveillance appears to show Vassell doing what the callers describe: walking up to people on the sidewalk and pointing a metal object — which turned out to be a pipe with a knob on the end — at people’s heads.

Near the end of the video, Vassell can be seen approaching an intersection and pointing the object toward the street. The image freezes and text states, “At this point, responding officers discharged their weapon.”

Given Vassell’s menacing moves toward passersby and how closely the pipe he was carrying resembles a pistol, it’s difficult to fault New York’s finest for responding as they did.

According to the New York Times, the NYPD had encountered Vassell before and classified him as emotionally disturbed.

The NYPD did not immediately answer CBS News’s questions about whether officers on the scene knew Vassell had a history of mental illness, nor about whether the department has increased or modified training since the 2013 fatal shooting of a mentally ill man near the Empire State Building.

The Attorney General’s Office said in a statement Thursday that its Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit “has opened an investigation into the death of Saheed Vassell.”


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  1. “Police had a choice. They always have a choice. They should not train them to kill. They should train them to protect life, to save life,” Eric Vassell said in an interview with WABC-TV.

    Except their own life, right?

    • Police should be willing to put their own lives at risk to protect the general public (e.g. run into a high school where a lunatic is murdering people, rather than cowering outside). But they shouldn’t have to put their lives at risk to protect someone who appears to be a very clear threat.
      Does his father think they should have waited for him to shoot an innocent to see if it’s a real gun and if he’s serious enough to use it?

      Responsibility for this death lies with the family and social worker bureaucrats for not properly caring for a person who clearly wasn’t mentally competent enough to care for himself.

    • It’s always surprised me just how many ignorant people, including cops, think that people who carry defensive sidearms are ‘trained to shoot to kill.’
      They aren’t. They are instead ‘trained to shoot to stop’ other people from being able to apply lethal force to them or a third party.
      Now, granted, using a metal projectile traveling at lethally high speed to ‘stop’ somebody by pushing said projectile through one’s chest or head and causing major damage to the rather important bits within often causes death; That is an unfortunate side-effect of using that method to ‘stop’ people from doing things. However, volunteering either knowingly or through abject stupidity to be shot is a hazardous hobby, one that should not be taken up without all due consideration. If one does not wish to be stopped from doing something lethally stupid to an innocent by being shot, one should not do things that are lethally stupid to innocents.
      Simple, really. Even an insane person could figure that out, as most do.

      • Umm…I train to stop…by putting two in the chest and one in the head. If you force me to draw my sidearm, you have already demonstrated that this is a life and death situation and put me in a position to respond. I will not shoot to maim. I shoot to end the threat with extreme prejudice.

  2. “Didn’t deserve to die.”? It kinda looks like he did in fact earn it. I’d guess that the only way to save him would have been to keep from going outside without someone who could control him. I don’t think the police bear much if any of the fault here. It is hard to imagine that the family doesn’t bear the lion’s share.

    • If everything reported in the article is true, this guy didn’t deserve to die. The thing is, a defensive use of force has nothing to do with what the perceived assailant deserves. It’s entirely about what the perceived assailee deserves, which is to defend themselves with all reasonable force.

    • Yup, me too. In *this* particular instance.

      This guy looked like he was trying to die.

      His mental issues were known to the community, and he should have had better access to mental health care (thanks Reagan), but the cops certainly didn’t know that.

      I would have shot the poor bastard, too. Ducks, but there it is.

      • I could be wrong, not an expert on the subject. But I’ve seen it said that the aclu forced, through the courts, the powers that be to let the mentally ill out of their warehouses.

        There are legit reasons to bang on Reagan. Maybe this ain’t one.

        • the ACLU along with congressional budget cuts. Reagan had little input to it. The ACLU led the charge.

        • Well, it’s a way more complicated issue than my “FU Reagan” comment allowed, that’s for sure, so bad me for that, but it certainly wasn’t all the ACLU either.

          There was a combination of the ACLU’s “patients rights” oft misguided do-gooderism and the Republicans “let them eat cake” attitude about humanity in general and the ooor and mentally ill specifically that combined in an ugly way at that time.

      • Yeah I will stress “this” specific one. I hold cops to the standard citizens are held to for lethal self-defense (in free states). So, often I will go against the cops. Here though? Good shot. Sad it had to end like that but any person would reasonable person would have feared for their life.

      • You are blaming Ronald Reagan who was last in office nearly 30 years ago? In the last 3 decades Democrats have had control of numerous Congressional sessions as well as 16 years in the White House (eight years of William Clinton and eight years of Barack Obama). Certainly your guys have had ample time to resurrect the spectacular Mental Health Care system Ronald Reagan dismantled? And in the absence of a Federal system why has the State of New York, one of the wealthiest states in the nation, not built a suitable replacement system on a state level? Is that Reagan’s fault as well?

  3. I’m inclined to say it was a good shoot.
    Not a LEO and this is why I have so much respect for them. Split second reaction as to what to do in a given situation, especially one with a weapon or what could be considered a weapon.
    Victim took a squared off shooting stance with what appears to be a pistol. That’s the information the police had when they showed up.

  4. While in many cases police will often shoot too soon (IMO), this is not one of those cases. That certainly looked like a gun enough to me, and it is not like he wasn’t brandishing it like it was a firearm. Even if they knew his history of mental illness, they had no way of knowing whether that was a real gun or not in the time they would have had to evaluate it were it a real gun. As soon as they invent the phaser stun setting that drops a human like a dead fish ala princess leia then yeah, police should be issued that thing, but we aren’t there yet. Now, if we are talking a crazy person waving a 2in pigsticker around while surrounded by half a dozen officers with guns drawn from 30ft away then we can talk about other methods.

    • One of the unfortunate side effects of Tasers is the presumption they should be used first and exclusively. Tasers are useful but in a life or death situation you need lead at a fast rate. The relatives always point to tasers and ask for a settlement because they shot the perp instead.

      • fully agree, but I said Phaser, not Taser. I was joking but my point was that until they have a legit “stun” setting that drops someone instantly with a fricking laser beam, the firearm is always going to be the hammer regardless of what the nail is in particular for situations like this. I was defending the police in that initial post.

        • If ‘Phaser’ technology ever comes to be, it won’t be good.

          This is what I mean –

          The cops will have it first, and that’s OK, to a point.

          The *problem* is when the crooks figure out how to make them. A directed-energy weapon where someone is knocked out for, let’s call it 60 seconds. Come up behind someone. Zap-’em. Take their valuables. Or tie ’em up and rape them. And have no description of the crook.

          Phasers could prove *very* lucrative for the criminal class….

    • Interesting you note Star Wars when talking about stun weapons. The Star Wars EU established very early on (in the excellent Heir to the Empire) that they tend to cause miscarriages in pregnant women. If Democrats didn’t like killing the unborn, they’d be sure to complain when cops used them on women.

  5. Yeah, I’ve faulted law enforcement for being trigger happy many times, but this isn’t one of them.
    I have to ask myself, would I have shot this guy? Unequivocally yes.

    • I’d like to think I’d see him coming from down the street and thus not be caught off guard – maybe…
      If someone were to actually surprise me with a metal object stuck menacingly in my face at close range, a broken arm via my walking stick will be the likely outcome… but he’d at least still be alive.

      • You say that “…at least he’d still be alive…” as though it is a good thing, but aside from all the bullshit you’d be put through while they justify your shoot, why is such a maniac still alive necessarily a good thing?

        So the next time some nut-bag runs down the street pointing a silver pipe at people that actually IS A GUN the police will not be in a very big hurry to respond, assuming it is just another prank?

        If he was that crazy he should have been under better supervision. Otherwise, “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”

  6. Did he pass a NICS check when he bought that pipe?

    In the real America, not New York City, this guy would have been dropped by a CCW concealed carrier about the fourth time he stuck that pipe in someone’s face, and that’s the way it should be.

    The Second Amendment solution for insane people with a gun or pretending to have a gun is for a law-abiding citizen exercising his/her right to keep and bear arms to defend themselves and the community from this sort of threat.

    The question that should be asked, but wasn’t – How many people would this guy have shot before the police arrived if he was violently insane and had a real pistol? Just in that short video he threatened at least six people, including a mother and child.

  7. I saw the video’s all over TV. I’m fairly vocal about all the local(Chicagoland) po-leece shootings. But I see this as justified. Them”s the breaks…

  8. So his actions resulted in a justifiable lethal response by four cops. Yet, his exact same actions, of pointing a supposedly deadly weapon at citizen’s heads would not justify the citizens being able to protect themselves. Obviously, in the socialist dystopia some are much more equal than others.

    • You are absolutely correct Alexander. N.Y. is not the great state to live in that it used to be. We aren’t considered capable of edc for self protection. & believe me when I say this, we probably do have a large amount of criminals walking around with illegally obtained handguns. But decent , law abiding citizens. Not so many.

  9. I have never trusted them. Too many back shooters or “it looked like a gun ” that said , I can’t see any fault of theirs in this case. It looked like a nut pointing a gun at people. What else could they do. I do wonder , did they tell him to put it down before killing him ??

    • Man just assumed a shooting stance with you the target. Are you going to ask him to drop it or fire?

      I’m a vocal critic of federal cops and the nypd. This looks kosher.

      I generally side with local law enforcement.

  10. Well I’m glad to see some real responses here rather than the typical cop hateraide bandwagoning. If a citizen had smoked him they woulda been justified as well.

    • My thoughts exactly. I don’t care if he was mentally ill, there are certain things that you just don’t do. Pointing a gun shaped object at police and taking a shooting stance is one of those things.

  11. of course he deserved to die. He pointed a pipe at armed men. If he pointed that damn thing at me I’d laid him out flat.

    Keep your mentally ill relatives off the streets and don’t let them point gun shaped objects at people.

  12. This idiot obviously was intimidating and assaulting people and wanted his victims to believe he had a firearm. A picture is worth a thousand words. If this idiot engaged in this conduct where I currently live or anywhere in the state of Alaska, he would have been dumped long before the police showed up, Was it reasonable that police believed he was armed and assaulting people with a deadly weapon?, Yes. Good shooting. Cops should sue the family for knowingly letting this idiot out to harass people and causing them the trauma of having to end his life. My sympathy meter is on zero.

  13. The NYPD is the best big city police department in the country. I know — I just damned them with faint praise. But still, it’s a pretty good PD and crime in NYC is relatively low compared to Chicago and Baltimore. Oops, I just did that “faint praise” thing again.

    No reasonable person could look at the video without concluding that this was a justified shooting. The cops saw a nut threatening people with a gun and acted accordingly.

  14. Suicide by cop. Family looking for a payout despite not keeping him on his meds. Nuff said.

    Also, why do these racially motivated stories only show up preceeding an election?

    • “why do these racially motivated stories only show up preceeding an election?”

      Because there’s always an upcoming election.

    • Where do you get “… why do these racially motivated stories only show up preceeding an election?”?
      Race was not mentioned as either a cause for his actions, nor as a reason for the subsequent shooting. I actually agree with most of the posters today, that the shooting was totally justified. His actions and behavior caused it, NOT his race.

  15. Looks justified.
    Is it inappropriate to mention that cops get to walk when it’s really clear they could have walked away?

  16. I don’t always side with cops, but I will here. It looked like a weapon, and cops don’t get the luxury of waiting and determining whether or not it is a firearm. If they wait, they die. The chief of police should show the family the footage then tell them to piss off.

  17. I’d have shot him, too. In the video, that pipe looks an awful lot like a pistol, and I wouldn’t have risked getting a closer look. I’m sorry he wasn’t on his meds, but that’s not anyone else’s problem but his.

  18. Maybe instead of complaining about the outcome, the family should take full responsibility for letting their mentally ill relative run around unchecked.

    And perhaps they should be fined for wasting police time and resources for to respond to their personal problems.

  19. Hey from the picture above I (after 30+ years of playing with guns) thought it was a real gun… this looks like a good shooting to me.

  20. If he came up to me and pointed what looks like a gun in my face I’d be trying to get the end of it away from me and get the end of mine pointed at him. We are lucky the police shot him and not an armed citizen because we’d be hearing about how nobody but police should have guns. Well we hear that anyway, but you probably know what I mean.

  21. Pokice were justified. The father is jyst another cop bashing moron. If someone pointed that weapon (it was a weapon with intent to create fear)at me or my family they would get engaged.

  22. “Vassell’s father, Eric, told reporters after the shooting that his son was bipolar and wasn’t taking his medication, but was not dangerous and did not deserve to die. According to the father, Vassell had been hospitalized several times for psychiatric problems, some involving encounters with the police, but was polite and kind.”

    Sad and probably true.

    “Police had a choice. They always have a choice. They should not train them to kill. They should train them to protect life, to save life,” Eric Vassell said in an interview with WABC-TV.”

    Now you’re an idiot. The police ARE protecting life by shooting someone who is running around pointing a gun at people. How many people have to die before the police can shoot? Just 1? How about that person’s family?

    And of course the response that “it wasn’t a gun” is about as stupid as it gets, unless we make “Minority Report” a reality and\or insist that all cops be psychic.


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