Won’t back down: Protestors return to site where cops killed black man holding pipe to demand transparency from city

Right time: Saheed Vassel’s mother Lorna Vassel speaks to gatherers at a rally calling for Mayor DeBlasio and police release the names of the officers who shot her son in Crown Heights last month.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

Mayor DeBlasio must release the names and service records of the cops who gunned down a black man with a reported history of mental illness whom they mistook as armed with a gun, along with full footage of the incident, demanded the man’s mother and other protesters amid a rally at the scene of the April shooting.

“It’s unconscionable that a month after NYPD officers murdered our son, Mayor DeBlasio is still refusing to provide basic transparency that can help ensure accountability for his killing,” Lorna Vassell said at the May 2 demonstration, roughly one month after police shot her son dead on April 4. “These are not the actions of a city government committed to the truth – instead it seems like public officials and the NYPD trying to hide something.”

The crowd gathered at Utica Avenue and Montgomery Street, where four officers fired 10 shots at the 34-year-old Vassell when responding to 911 calls from passersby who reported the man brandished what appeared to be a pistol — but cops later discovered to be a metal pipe — at pedestrians.

The next day, after the New York State attorney general opened an investigation into the shooting, authorities released edited transcripts of the 911 calls along with clips of surveillance videos that showed Vassell, who his father said was bipolar, pointing the pipe like a gun at bystanders.

But the Police Department has yet to share unedited footage and transcripts, according to another protestor, who argued the material that has been revealed should be considered nothing but propaganda until it is shared in its entirety.

“This is classic victim blaming,” said Anthonine Pierre, the director of a Bedford-Stuyvesant–based group of community organizers, the Brooklyn Movement Center. “What we know is four officers came out of nowhere and started firing, we need to see what actually happened and the public needs a sense of what actually went on.”

A Police Department spokeswoman, however, claimed protocol prevents officials from identifying officers involved in shootings, and that authorities shared all appropriate footage and transcripts related to the ongoing matter.

“The NYPD released all relevant video and transcripts of the three 911 calls, said Detective Sophia Mason. “An investigation remains underway and more information will be released when and if it is appropriate.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Time for justice: Saheed Vassell’s aunt and uncle Nora Ford and Utel Brown were on hand at the rally.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

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