Police Shot & Killed An Unarmed Black Man In Brooklyn Believing The Metal Pipe He Was Holding Was A Gun

The New York Police Department said that officers fatally shot Saheed Vassell, a 34-year-old unarmed Brooklyn resident, on Wednesday.

NYPD Chief Terence A. Monahan told Buzzfeed that the NYPD received 3 separate 911 calls describing “a black man wearing a brown jacket and pointing ‘a silver firearm’ at people on a Crown Heights street.” Surveillance footage from that day confirms these calls. According to Monahan, it showed “a man brandishing what appears to be a firearm — pointing it at people.”

In reality, this firearm was actually just a silver pipe with a knob at the end.

Five officers arrived on the scene and encountered Vassell at a street corner. "The suspect then took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers," Monahan said. Four of the five officers shot a total of ten rounds at Vassell, killing him.

In response to Vassell’s death, the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation. Buzzfeed News explains, “As per an executive order, the attorney general has the authority to oversee investigations into incidents where unarmed civilians die during interactions with police, or incidents where there is significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous.”

"We’re committed to conducting an independent, comprehensive, and fair investigation," Spitalnick, Schneiderman’s spokesperson, told Buzzfeed.

Police told the New York Times that Vassell had been arrested before and classified as “an emotionally disturbed person.” Local residents said that Vassell was a familiar figure on the street and never seen as a threat. Many claim that the police knew who he was and should have known better than to shoot him.