#SaheedVassell Mentally Spiraled After NYPD Gunned Down His Best Friend 10 Years Ago

Eric Vassell, father of Saheed Vassell, makes an appearance at a rally in protest of the police-inflicted shooting death of his son Saheed Vassell, in the Crown Heights neighborhood of New York City borough Brooklyn on April 5, 2018.
Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

In a most stinging irony, Saheed Vassell slid into a worsening depression after his best friend, Ortanzso “Marlon” Bovell, was shot and killed by police in 2008.

The mental stress of experiencing such personal heartbreak most likely played a role in Vassell’s meeting the same fate—death by cop—on those same Brooklyn, N.Y., streets almost a decade later.


“He wasn’t an angry person. He was depressed mentally,” Bovell’s sister Leesh said of Vassell to the New York Daily News. “[Saheed and Marlon] were friends forever. He hasn’t been the same since Marlon died.”

As reported by earlier by The Root, Vassell was fatally shot on Wednesday, allegedly for pointing an iron pipe or blowtorch at officers responding to a call of a man threatening people with a firearm.


His family confirms that Vassell had a bipolar diagnosis, a mental state that can be triggered or worsened by trauma—like that of your best friend being killed by cops.


After it was revealed that Vassell was not only not carrying a weapon but was also shot 14 times, concerned citizens took to the streets, underlining one of a recent spate of killings by cops bubbling back to the top of the news cycle.


The Daily News reports that Vassell’s best friend, Bovell, 25, was killed by police while fleeing in a stolen car in 2008.

Police say that as Bovell drove a stolen Mustang GT away, he clipped NYPD Inspector John Chell, who was brandishing his firearm. According to police, as Chell fell, his gun went off accidentally and hit Bovell in the back, killing him. Chell, of course, was not charged in Bovell’s death.


At a community meeting Saturday, Democratic City Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel said that the shooting of his friend triggered Vassell’s mental health issues.

“Saheed’s mental illness started at the hands of police officers shooting an unarmed black man, and Saheed’s life ended by the shooting of a police officer, and he was an unarmed black man,” Ampry-Samuel said.


Although the officer in Bovell’s death was never charged, a jury awarded $2.5 million to Bovell’s family, ruling that Chell “intentionally discharged” his gun.

Just another couple million in taxpayer-funded blood money to victims of state-triggered death.


How much will Vassell’s life be worth?

And how much more police-inflicted post-traumatic stress disorder can they mete out and then punish us for it?

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About the author

Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.