A video released Tuesday by the NYPD, which shows the police killing of Saheed Vassell, failed to reveal whether officers ordered the mentally ill man to drop the object that could have been a weapon before shooting him.
Four officers — one in uniform, three plainclothes — gunned down Vassell, 34, on April 4 in a hail of 10 bullets. They were responding to calls about a Black man with a gun. But it turned out that Vassell was holding a pipe. No firearm was found at the scene.
Officers didn’t try to diffuse the situation—not even warning Vassell to put down the object, according to witnesses. “They just hopped out of the car. It’s almost like they did a hit. They didn’t say please. They didn’t say put your hands up, nothing,” stated witness Jaccbot Hinds in interviews immediately after the shooting.
The police have a different story. Officers repeatedly shouted, “Drop it,” NYPD officials said last week. However, the released video doesn’t reveal which version is accurate.
It’s difficult to see exactly what transpired because of the distance from which the video was shot. As the officers stepped out their vehicles, which pulled up on the other side of the street from where Vassell stood, the cops rushed toward him with their arms outstretched as if they are firing.
Officers involved in the shooting apparently were not wearing body cameras that could have resolved whether they ordered him to drop the object. The newly released video, filmed from a security camera half a block away, was the only footage investigators recovered of the shooting itself, according to the New York Times.
Last week, NYPD officials released a snippet of videos from various security cameras in the Brooklyn neighborhood that showed Vassell pointing the welding torch at passersby on the sidewalk.
On Sunday, the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded release of “all the video” related to the shooting. “The video we’re not seeing is of what the police did. When did they arrive? When did they get out of the car? What did they do? What did they say?” Sharpton stated.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD officials suggested on Tuesday that the state attorney general’s investigation prevented them from releasing the full video last week. However, a statement from Attorney General Eric Schneideman’s office denied that claim, the Times reported.