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New York police shoot unarmed man in Brooklyn

by Leigh Jones
Posted 4/05/18, 10:31 am

New York police shot and killed an unarmed man Wednesday afternoon, sparking criticism from neighbors who said the officers should have known he wasn’t a threat. Police confronted Saheed Vassell, 34, in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn after three people called 911 to report a man pointing a silver weapon at people on the street. “The suspect took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers, two of whom were in uniform,” NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan later told reporters. Four of the five officers at the scene fired a total of 10 rounds, striking and killing Vassell. The object he pointed at the officers turned out to be a “pipe with some sort of knob at the end,” Monahan said. Police had previous encounters with Vassell and described him as emotionally disturbed. But neighbors said he didn’t pose a threat and the officers who regularly patrolled the neighborhood knew that.

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Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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  • Steve SoCal
    Posted: Thu, 04/05/2018 03:41 pm

    Suggested alternative headline:  "Police Shoot Man Aiming what Appeared to be a Gun at Multiple Civilians and at Responding Police Officers"

    "World" couldn't get the details of the Stephon Clark story quite balanced, so I thought I'd help on this one.

    Watch the video posted by the police department, and you will get a more accurate idea of what happened.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Thu, 04/05/2018 04:41 pm

    I saw pictures of the item Mr. Vassell was holding. Yes, if he held it in certain ways I too would have thought he was pointing a gun at me. 

    If the officers had body-cams, it is likely the reason they shot Mr. Vassell will be quite plain.  

    People in neighborhood said “officers should have known [victim] was not a threat.”  Far as I’m aware, no US police department has started issuing ESP to policemen. 

  • West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Thu, 04/05/2018 05:36 pm

    Ever since the killing of Eulia Love in Los Angeles in 1979, I have known that the interface between armed police and civilians leaves much to be desired. She was an African American woman confronted during a cold winter with the fact of her household gas having been turned off because she couldn't pay her bill. She freaked out. Who wouldn't in her shoes? This was one more bit of stress in a life already stressed to a breaking point. She carried a kitchen knife with her when two armed police MEN met her at her gas meter. They deemed this emotionally off-kilter woman a threat to their lives and shot and killed her. In their case, knowing she carried a knife, why didn't they back off ten steps? Why didn't they speak with her from a distance in order to determine the source of her difficulty? What was their hurry that they couldn't give this poor woman time and space?

    By my saying, "I have known that the interface between armed police and civilians leaves much to be desired," does that make me a left wing, police-hating, liberal radical? No. One of my good friends is a retired sheriff, and he is a servant to many people in the neighborhood. I mean what I said and nothing more, There is room for improvement in how armed policemen in America interact with civilians in public places.

    In the current case, anyone who has ever seen or been around downtown city streets, especially at night (I've been there on sheltered Christian mission trips), should know that emotionally off-kilter people can be seen inhabiting those streets, out in public. Officers should be aware of these people and be able to recognize and judge by sight that here is a person in an emotional state. If they are unable to do so, then they should be trained to do so and without such training they should not be the officers assigned to city streets.

    Folks, come on. Where is Christian compassion? I went to the local police station in my town two days ago to ask help in removing a baby car carrier from the back seat of my car.And I often stop and chat with policemen as occasion presents. I don't hate police. I love police in my town. In another instance, a friend of mine called the police department because I once hadn't arrived home at the time her clock told her I should have. A kindly young police officer came to my door to check up on me. (And fortunately, I wasn't carrying a kitchen paring knife with me when I answered my door.) I love police. But we as a nation, we as the white people in this nation, need to stop being defensive and self-righteous and recognize that there is a problem. We hear in the news too often about unarmed or emotionally out-of-whack people being shot and killed by policemen. Am I to understand that as the so-called "richest nation in the world," we cannot improve the relations between police and civilians on our city streets? Shame! Shame, America, Shame!

  • Tiggersuze
    Posted: Thu, 04/05/2018 09:23 pm

    It goes without saying that whenever a life is lost, it is a tragedy.  I do believe that most officers are trained properly and do their best based on their training and experience. Some people who have been shot and killed by police were shot after being told to stop and put their hands up.  I was taught to respect authority, so if I am ever told to put my hands up by a police officer, I would do so.  

    Likewise, to the lady commenting above, if I went to the door with a knife, I would put my hands up when I realized that it was a police officer at my door and follow the officer’s directions in putting down the knife.  

    It is simple really. It’s called respecting authority.  Those in uniform,  police or military, deserve our respect and our gratitude.

  • West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Thu, 04/05/2018 10:41 pm

    I completely understand, Tiggersuze, what you are saying. You are shifting blame to the victim. I also was raised to respect authority, and I try very hard, God help me, even when the human face of that authority is not worthy of respect. But yours and mine is not the only culture in America. Not everyone receives such training as children, and as many parents will tell you, such training is not always successful. But is disrespect of authority in an emotionally charged situation a crime worthy of capital punishment? Is crazy, threatening behavior by an apparently deranged individual whom the neighborhood and officers on the regular beat recognize as such, a crime meriting capital punishment? Do you realize that every time a policeperson shoots and kills a civilian, they have set themselves up as lawmaker, sheriff, judge, jury, and executioner? I don't think this is what either the Good Lord or our founding fathers intended for America. The fact remains that many unarmed civilians end up getting shot and killed by armed policemen in America, and I call that shameful. And by my pointing out this fact, I am by no means labeling all police persons as unworthy, incapable, or trigger-happy. Please don't read into what I am saying.

  • Tiggersuze
    Posted: Fri, 04/06/2018 07:54 am

    Bless your heart!  I really wasn’t trying to read anything into what you were saying, just using your example in explaining my thoughts on the subject.  I’m perfectly entitled to my opinions as you are to yours. 

    Law enforcement officers are not there in the field to be judge, jury, and executioner.  That’s just silly.  They’re certainly not risking their lives everyday for the pay either.  To serve and protect is their motto.

    Mistakes are made at times I’m sure and that is tragic, but I for one, don’t want to see a police officer stand down from what their training warrants, because someone with a visible weapon “might not be dangerous”.   

    Our nation is made up of people from many nations and cultures.  I believe that if you come to another country, you should learn the basic laws, the language, and the customs of that country.  If I went to another country even just to visit, I would learn the do’s and don’ts and abide by them.  Again, just my opinion:)