NYPD officers fatally shot a black man after they believed he was pointing a gun at them in Brooklyn Wednesday afternoon, officials said. The man, who police had classified as mentally ill after previous encounters with him, was instead wielding a metal pipe with a knob.
Five officers were responding to three 911 calls about a suspect making threats with a silver gun around 4:45 p.m. near Montgomery Street and Utica Avenue in Crown Heights, Chief Terence A. Monahan said at a press conference.
“The suspect then took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers,” Monahan said.
Four officers, including three in plainclothes, fired 10 bullets, striking the man, who was later identified by his father, Eric, as 34-year-old Saheed Vassell. Vassell was pronounced dead at Kings County Medical Center. Police on Thursday released surveillance video and transcripts of 911 calls placed by alarmed citizens.
Surveillance video shows a black man approaching people and pointing an object at them. In one instance, the man appears to point the object at a woman and a small child. Police also released a photo of the object, which appeared to be a metal pipe that had a tube-shaped knob at the top.
“There is a guy in a brown jacket walking around pointing… I don’t know, (to someone else) what is he pointing in people’s faces? They say it’s a gun, it’s silver,” said one 911 caller.
Another caller said, “There’s a guy walking around the street, he looks like he’s crazy but he’s pointing something at people that looks like a gun and he’s like popping it as if… he’s pulling the trigger.”
Saheed’s father, Eric Vassell, told The New York Times that his son was bipolar and had been in hospitals several times over the past few years, including after times when he had encounters with NYPD officers.
Residents told the Times that Vassell, who has a 15-year-old son, was known around the neighborhood for doing odd jobs for local businesses and panhandling in a nearby subway station.
The fatal shooting of Vassell comes less than three weeks after the shooting death of unarmed black man Stephon Clark, 22, who police in Sacramento opened fire on after they believed he was pointing a gun at them. Clark instead was holding a cellphone.
Monahan said that the NYPD officers involved in the shooting death of Vassell were not wearing body cameras. The officers have not yet been identified.
Morgan Rousseau contributed to this article.