New York City police fatally shoot man after he points pipe at them

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NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. — Family members of a man holding a pipe who was shot and killed by New York City police are outraged over the Wednesday incident.

The man was identified by police and family members as Saheed Vassell, 34, of Crown Heights. His family tells WPIX he was mentally ill, and has a 15-year-old son.

Before the shooting, three 911 calls from people at the scene reported a man in a brown jacket pointing a silver firearm at people, NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said.

When officers found him, he "took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers," Monahan said.

Police say video evidence corroborates this.

Four officers then fired at Vassell 10 times. It is not yet known how many bullets struck Vassell.

After the shooting, officers discovered Vassell had been holding a pipe with a knob on the end.

PIX11 spoke to Vassell's parents and aunt, all of whom say they don't believe he ever had a chance.

“They have witnesses around here that say they did not tell him to drop anything," aunt Nora Ford said. "They said the police guy just pull around, and started shooting at him, and I'm very, very upset.”

One of those witnesses is Jesus Santiago, a local who said he knew Vassell, and said the man was "crazy" but mostly did not bother anyone.

Santiago said he was 5 feet from officers when they opened fire, and that the police never told Vassell to drop the object. He also questioned why so many shots were fired.

"Why you shooting so many times? The first few shot was in the head. For me, he was dead right there,” Santiago said.

Police have not commented on whether or not the officers told Vassell to drop the object before opening fire.

When asked if he has a message for Mayor Bill de Blasio, father Eric Vassell said the mayor needs to sit down with police and consider how many more young black men are being killed by police than other groups, and urged police to take a different approach when interacting with people they believe to be acting erratically.

The National Action Network, a non-profit civil rights organization, will hold a vigil Thursday at 4:40 p.m., the time they say Vassell was shot and killed 24 hours earlier.

Rev. Al Sharpton and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after police put him in a chokehold, plan to attend.

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