Vassell's father, Eric, told reporters after the shooting that his son had been hospitalized several times for psychiatric problems, some involving encounters with the police, but was polite and kind.
After mistaking the pipe for a gun, police shot and killed Vassell in Brooklyn when the man "took a two-handed shooting stance" and pointed in officers' direction, according to NBC. The cops were responding to 911 calls, reporting a black man in a jacket pointing a "silver firearm" at people, who NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan says "took a two-handed shooting stance" and pointed at them, according to several United States media reports. Although he admitted that pointing a pipe at people may have caused panic, Eric Vassell said the officers acted rashly.
"Officers responding only understood, for the best of our knowledge so far, they were dealing with a situation of someone armed who had been aiming that weapon", de Blasio said Thursday. "That's an exceedingly hard, tense, split-second decision that has to be made".
The shooting comes after the police killing of an unarmed black man on March 18 in Sacramento, California, sparked two weeks of protests and calls for police reform.
The material released by the department didn't answer questions about whether the officers had identified themselves or ordered the victim to drop the object before they opened fire.
Clarke said she looks forward to working with elected officials in ensuring that "the appropriate focus is given to addressing the mentally ill and their interactions with NYPD, and proper, clear and transparent protocols are in place to make sure that lethal force is used as a last resort when interacting with the mentally ill of our communities, so we can avoid losing another life to unnecessary violence". "It's very sad because it's a dude from around here and a lot of people love him and he don't mess with anybody". He said Vassell had "a profound mental health problem".
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"They murdered my son and I want justice for him", she said. "He was well-loved, he was not homeless, he was a good man".
Mr Vassell later died in hospital. In the first three months of this year, the NYPD has seen a 39 percent increase in the number of reported rapes and sexual assaults.
"If we don't turn around and do something now, like the time is now, the energy is now", one demonstrator said.
Other speakers said that "911 callers, blood is on your hands as well as the NYPD", according to eyewitness accounts.
"I messaged Attorney General Schneiderman this morning to thank him for opening an investigation into the police shooting of Saheed Vassell in Crown Heights".