Yesterday afternoon in New York City, police officers shot and killed a black man after he pointed a metal pipe at the officers and they confused it for a gun, according to authorities. Chief of Department Terence A. Monahan said three different 911 callers had described the man as holding a gun before police arrived on the scene.
The victim is reported to be 35-year-old Saheed Vassell. Vassell’s father says his son suffered from bipolar disorder and had no access to guns.
After the shooting, officers found the man was holding “a pipe with some sort of knob on it,” Monahan said. He says the Vassell took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed the object at the approaching officers. Four police fired their weapons a total of 10 times between them. After shooting Vassell, they administered first aid and called an ambulance, but he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Some witnesses told reporters that the cops on scene, some in plain clothes, started shooting at Vassell immediately after arriving.
This incident comes in the wake of the Sacramento shooting of Stephon Clark. Clark, too, wasn’t carrying a firearm when he was shot. He was carrying only a cellphone. The incident sparked weeks of protests and calls for police reform, including a proposition from California lawmakers to replace “reasonable force” terminology with a “necessary force” standard. (h/t CNN)
Vassell was described to The New York Times by people who knew him as “quiet” and “harmless.”