The New York Times also reports that interviewed neighbors said that Vassell was well known by his community and by the police, and that the NYPD should have known better than to shoot him, as he was a familiar face.
Grieving family members of a 34-year-old Brooklyn man who was shot dead by police officers on Wednesday are speaking out, accusing the NYPD of firing on the mentally ill victim 10 times without a warning.
The New York City Police Department released surveillance video Thursday of a man, later fatally shot by police, pointing a silver object at residents as if he were brandishing a gun.
Police said Saheed Vassell, a Jamaican-born welder with a 15-year-old son, was killed shortly before 5pm in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn after officers mistook a metal pipe he was holding for a gun.
"It's a piece of iron and they kill him for a piece of iron", said Vassell's aunt Nora Ford, 59, describing the object her nephew was holding.
A last video showed him crouch and point the object again - this time, police said, in the direction of officers arriving on the scene.
At the press conference, Monahan said none of the officers wore body cameras.
The father of a man killed by police officers in Brooklyn said his son was bipolar and wasn't taking his medication, but was not unsafe and didn't deserve to die. Vassell was a black man, bringing the entire blurry catalog of implicit biases that infect all police interactions into play.
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Police said they thought Stephon Clark, 22, had a gun, but he was only carrying a mobile phone. "He speaks to himself, usually he has an orange bible or a rosary in his hand".
"It's nearly like they did a hit", a witness named Jack Hinds told NBC 4.
Vassell "took a two-handed shooting stance" and pointed a metal object in their direction, Chief of Department Terence Monahan. "Every cop in this neighborhood knows him", Fuller said. He echoed a common refrain: The officers should have known him well enough to not simply shoot him to death. He has no issue with violence. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is opening an investigation into the killing of Vassell, his office said Thursday morning. "Cops are good", he said.
The shooting in NY is the latest in a string of killings of unarmed African American men by police which has sparked fierce outrage from the public.
"You can not be a cop and all you should think about is your life, you know, you will lose your life so let me take a life to save my life", Eric Vassell told WABC. Everybody just knows he's just mentally challenged.
By state law, the attorney general is appointed as a special prosecutor to oversee investigations into and prosecute matters related to incidents in which unarmed civilians die during interactions with police or incidents in which there is significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and unsafe, Spitalnick said, citing the law.
"On the anniversary of the man who stood up for black people... you're going take a black man down with nine bullets", Smith said, as the shooting came on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.