NYPD encounter that led to shooting of bipolar man lasted ‘no more than 10 seconds’: Sources
WABC-TV(NEW YORK) — The fatal encounter between New York City police and a bipolar Brooklyn man waiving what looked like a gun lasted no more than 10 seconds, police sources told ABC News.
Saheed Vassell was warned to drop what turned out to be the top of a welding torch before four officers opened fire, the sources said. Vassell was struck at least seven times and maybe as many as nine times, according to the medical examiner.
None of the officers had been involved in previous on-duty shootings, police said, and they remain on active duty while the state attorney general investigates.
“You saw how quickly that transpired,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Friday. “Those officers didn’t have much time. Being presented with immediate threat is different from being able to step back and talk.”
The NYPD released additional video footage that showed Vassell walking quickly through Crown Heights, waiving a silver metal pipe at passersby. Additional transcripts of 911 calls were also released.
“There is a guy walking around,” one caller said. “He looks like he is crazy but he’s pointing something at people that looks like a gun and he’s like popping it like he’s pulling the trigger. He’s not pulling a trigger but he’s making a motion as if he is and there is something sticking out of his jacket.”
The caller continued: “I’m watching the guy, he’s crossing the street and putting it in people’s face like it’s a gun and pulling his hat, he’s doing some (unintelligible) and pulling it back, like he’s making a trigger sign and people is like ducking and like trying to avoid because they’re thinking it’s a gun. There is something hanging out of his jacket. I’m like oh my god.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the officers’ actions.
“You can see in those transcripts how fearful the people on the streets were for their own safety,” de Blasio said during his weekly appearance on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show.
Critics wondered whether the outcome would have been different had beat cops -– who patrol the neighborhood and may have known Vassell and his condition, and not officers from a specialized unit — responded to the scene.
“We do know this took place in such a fast time sequence that the normal concepts of reaching the officers who normally are on the beat, etc., may not have even been conceivable in this kind of – literally a few minutes time span,” de Blasio said.
The mayor said he would like to see more mental health help available for someone like Vassell, whose family said suffered from bipolar disorder.
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