Brooklyn, NY – Tragedy looms over Brooklyn as the killing of another unarmed black man headlines the news. 34-year-old Saheed Vassell was shot ten times on Wednesday, April 4.
On Wednesday, April 4 around 4:40 p.m. New York Police Department (NYPD) received alarming phone calls describing a black man pointing a silver object, The Washington Post reported. Five officers arrived, two in plain clothes and three in uniform arrived on Utica Avenue and Montgomery Street, a neighborhood that is predominantly African-American and West-Indian American.
Vassell was described as “brandishing what appeared to be a firearm, pointing it at people” by NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan. Monahan continued to report that Vassell then took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed the object at approaching officers.
Four of the officers then fired rounds at Vassell. Following the shots, the officers turned Vassell over to medical aid and he was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. The item that Vassell was yeilding turned out to be a showerhead.
Amongst the already tragic controversy surrounding unarmed black men being killed, the killing of Vassell infuriated residents due to the fact that he was mentally ill.
“All he did was just walk around the neighborhood,” Wilson said. “He speaks to himself, usually he has an orange Bible or a rosary in his hand. He never had a problem with anyone.” Andre Wilson, a longtime friend of Vassell, told the New York Daily News.
In an interview, that night, Eric Vassell, father to Saheed, stated that Saheed had bipolar disorder and had been admitted to the hospital on multiple occasions, sometimes after encounters with police, according to the New York Times.
According to the New York Times, police had stated that Vassell had been arrested before and that officers classified him as an emotionally disturbed person.
“Every cop in this neighborhood knows him,” stated John Fuller, whom also knew Vassell for years.
Controversy still swarms as the question remains: should he have been shot? According to the New York Daily News, one in five New Yorkers suffers from a mental disorder. Is it the training? Is it the fear and/or pumping adrenaline that causes NYPD, and other officers across the United States, to find themselves in situations like this? Or is it the unfair stereotypes that come with being an African-American male in the United States.
Our hearts are with Vassell’s family, as he also leaves behind a 15-year-old son. May he Rest in Peace.