CROWN HEIGHTS – Nearly one month after police shot dead Saheed Vassell, dozens took to the streets of Crown Heights yesterday to demand transparency over a police shooting that left a mentally ill man dead.
Eric and Lorna Vassell rallied with dozens of relatives, neighbors and community activists demanding answers from Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD officials who, a month after the fatal killing, have not released the names of the four officers involved or an unedited version of the video.
“We are pressuring Bill de Blasio to give us the name of the police officers and to release the videos so that we can make our judgment from there,” mother of the slain victim, Lorna Vassell, told Bklyner.
“We don’t want them to edit it, because Saheed was murdered,” she added.
After a 30-minute rally, family members and protesters took to the streets circling the block of Montgomery between Utica Ave. and East New York Ave. while shouting, “When they say, ‘Get back’ – We say fight back” and “We-want-names.”
On April 4, four NYPD officers fatally shot Saheed Vassell after responding to 9-1-1 calls that a suspect was brandishing a gun. Vassell was discovered to be carrying a metal pipe rather than a gun after police officers shot at the victim 19 times fatally striking the 34-year-old ten times.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office is investigating the case.
Immediately following the shooting, the NYPD released an edited version of Vassell wielding the pipe at passersby. However, nearly a month after the incident, the NYPD has not released a full un-edited version of the video, nor have they released the names of the four officers involved in the shooting.
Saheed Vassell’s aunt was also at the rally. The high school teacher told Bklyner, “It’s convenient that the NYPD has a video to suit their narrative,” said Elaine Vassell. “We want to see the whole video, not edited, so the truth can come out and we can get to the bottom of it.
Other family members confirmed Vassell suffered from mental health problems and had gone untreated for several years but also said he was not a violent man. In a recent press conference, de Blasio said approximately 8000 NYPD have undergone crisis intervention training, and the city is looking increase the total number to of CIT trained officers to 20,000. The program is an initiative for community policing that connects law enforcement with various mental health providers to improve to responses to people in crisis.
“I try and understand but I cannot understand because Saheed did not have a gun,” said Lorna Vassell. “And I don’t know what kind of training these police get.”
Lorna Vassell went onto say she believes that when it comes to black communities, “they [the police] just comes to kill that person.”