Video released by the New York City Police Department on Thursday shows 34-year-old Saheed Vassell pointing a metal pipe at several people as if it were a gun on Wednesday before he was shot and killed by police officers in the Crown Heights area of the city’s Brooklyn borough.
Police also released the transcripts of the 911 calls made by people in the neighborhood who reported a man holding a gun and pointing it at people.
Vassell can be seen holding the silver metal pipe with a knob on the end and pointing it at people on the street.
Vassell was shot and killed shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Officers who arrived on the scene in response to the 911 calls encountered Vassell on a street corner.
The officers said that Vassell took a “two-handed shooting stance” and aimed the object at them as they approached.
Four officers—two in uniform and two in plain clothes—discharged a total of 10 shots. Vassell was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The 911 transcripts reveal that the callers were unsure as to what Vassell had in his hand. Only one of the three callers actually called the object a gun. The others said he was pointing something in people’s faces that looked like a gun.
Witnesses on Wednesday said that they did not hear the officers—who arrived in an unmarked vehicle—issue any commands prior to firing at Vassell.
On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the actions of the officers, saying that the city would be as transparent as possible in this situation, and even hypothesized as to what might have happened if Vassell had actually been carrying a gun.
“Let’s play out the scenario had it been different,” de Blasio said. “If this individual with a loaded weapon, who for whatever reason, including a mental health challenge, was ready to use it, that’s a split-second matter of trying to save lives right then and there.
“How you get the full facts of what the person has in their hand, and what their mental health condition might be, and are they known to anyone, in something that’s playing out in seconds and minutes, that’s a very tall order,” he continued.