As police officers have been convicted of killing people of color in recent months, charges may come in another case involving an unarmed Black man in New York City. Saheed Vassell‘s father, who has waited six months for answers, said he was hoping the wheels of justice will start turning despite several obstacles.
Eric Vassell, the father of the 34-year-old man who was fatally shot by New York Police Department (NYPD) officers in April, met with New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood to discuss possible charges on Tuesday, Mic reported. He didn’t receive the news that he wanted to hear from Underwood and was instead given the standard non-answer usually given in police shooting cases typically followed by long waiting periods for potential charges as investigations get underway and authorities gather facts.
“At this time, they won’t tell us when they will come to a decision,” Vassell said about his meeting with the attorney general’s office.
Vassell, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was killed by police on April 4. He pointed what turned out to be a metal pipe at pedestrians during a walk in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn neighborhood. Someone called the police to alert them about Vassell before four responding officers opened fire on the West Indian man within seconds of their arrival, a surveillance video revealed.
The man’s death sparked major protests. However, none of the officers were ever disciplined, Eric Vassell said. Typically, officers are put on administrative leave pending investigations, with some fired as charges are brought by authorities. However, the NYPD, which has not yet officially disciplined Daniel Pantaleo and all the officers involved in Eric Garner‘s fatal shooting, gave similar treatment to officers Leon Dinham, Anthony Bottiglieri, Bekim Molic and Omar Rafiq in Vassell’s shooting. Their names were leaked to the press in July after the department shielded them from release.
With the NYPD, Vassell recognized its troublesome treatment of Garner’s shooting. Though he is hopeful for justice, he fears that his son’s death may be overlooked by the beleaguered department.
“This is the tactics of the NYPD to just [let] the families suffer for years and years and years,” Vassell told reporters Tuesday. I’ve seen them do that. They do all types of things to cause us to break down. It’s a game that they keep on playing with us over and over, wanting us to believe they’ll do good.”