When cops shot an unarmed man in Brooklyn, they knew emotionally charged protests would launch, and the New York attorney general would be investigating.
What they didn’t realize is the amount of vitriol sent out on social media over another needless, mindless police shooting of an unarmed black male.
About 4:40 on a recent spring evening in Crown Heights, cops got a few calls about a black man point what the caller said was a “silver firearm” at people on the street.
“There’s a man walking on the street,” one caller said. “He looks like he’s crazy and he’s going something looking like a pistol.”
Five cops showed up and saw Saheed Vassell pointing an object at people.
“The suspect took a two-handed firing stance,” said police spokesman Terence Monahan. “He brandished an item at the officers.”
Four cops opened fire on Vassell, striking him several times. Ten rounds were fired.
The object Vassell held was a metal pipe.
In one video, Vassell is standing on a corner, facing the intersection. The cops opened fire on him.
Vassell was in his neighborhood. He lived around the corner from where he was killed. Neighbors and family told local journalists Vassell had bipolar disorder and was well known to the police and shopkeepers. They all described Vassell as ‘harmless.’
“Everyone knows him,” said a stylist at Glamors Beauty across the highway from the spot where Vassell’s body still lay and an hour later. “I guess when the police came they thought it was a gun.”
Vassell, 34, had moved to America from Jamaica when he was 6, Vassell’s father, Eric Vassell, told reporters. “He was well known to residents and cops,” the elder Vassell told The New York Times.
The next morning, Vassell’s aunt, Nora Ford, visited the corner where he nephew was killed, so she could “feel the blood where he fell.”
“It was a piece of metal, and they killed him for a piece of iron,” Ford told reporters. “If he were a white kid, they wouldn’t have fired at him.”
Police refused to discuss whether they gave Vassell a warning and NYPD spokesman refused to respond to questions sent by email.
Police in America has shot — and killed — over 3235 persons since January 2015. Black victims make up 24$ of those and 36% of the 222 unarmed people who have been shot and killed.
Over 290 people have been shot and killed — by cops — in 2018. One-fifth of those were in the middle of a mental or emotional breakdown when they were shot.