In an effort to calm growing anger and heated street protests, New York City police on Thursday released several security videos and 911 transcripts from the harrowing minutes leading up to officers' decision to fatally shoot a mentally ill black suspect in Brooklyn. The cops were responding to 911 calls, reporting a black man in a jacket pointing a "silver firearm" at people, who NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan says "took a two-handed shooting stance" and pointed at them, according to several U.S. media reports.
A Black man walked down a Brooklyn street on the evening of April 4, allegedly pointing a silver metal object at people.
Police said Vassell was killed by officers responding to reports of a man aiming a gun at pedestrians. In response, officers shot that man - identified as Saheed Vassell - because they believed the metal object was a gun.
Vassell's father, Eric, told reporters after the shooting that his son had been hospitalized several times for psychiatric problems, some involving encounters with the police, but was polite and kind. "And the way they killed him, they didn't give him no choice", he continued.
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According to the released transcripts, one caller to 911 reported that Vassell "looks like he's insane but he's pointing something at people that looks like a gun".
The video clip ends with Vassell brandishing the shower head like a pistol at something off screen - which authorities claimed were the responding officers, who then opened fire.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged that Vassell had a "profound mental health problem", but said he imagined what could have played out if Vassell actually had a gun.
"We do see the outliers", said Dermot Shea, NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies. After the shooting, the officers can be heard frantically calling for dispatchers to send an ambulance. They always have a choice. They should not train them to kill.
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NY police say the man who was killed was carrying this pipe. "They should train them to protect life, to save life", Eric Vassell told WABC-TV.
A family friend, Berrest Biggs, said he learned of the shooting through social media.
Schneiderman's announcement of the state probe led by attorneys in his Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit came shortly after a Crown Heights state Senator called for an investigation into the fatal shooting - which occurred on the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - amid demands for better policing from activists in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he had messaged Schneiderman Thursday morning, thanking him for "opening an investigation into the police shooting of Saheed Vassell in Crown Heights".
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