POLICE SHOOTING PROTEST

Hundreds took to the streets in response to the death of Saheed Vassell, an unarmed, mentally ill black man who was shot and killed by police. The NYPD is standing by its officers, releasing a video they claim proves their actions were justified. We have the tape, and New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton joins us to discuss it.

Aired on April 6, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> TODAY AT 12:40 P.M., THE NYPD RECEIVED SEVERAL 911 CALLS OF A MAN DESCRIBED AS A MALE BLACK WEARING A BROWN JACKET, POINTING WHAT IS DESCRIBED AS A SILVER FIREARM AT PEOPLE ON THE STREET.

THREE DIFFERENT 911 CALLERS DESCRIBED THE MAN WITH THE GUN POINTING IT AT PEOPLE ON THE STREET.

THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO SHOOT HIM DOWN THE WAY HOW THEY DID IT BECAUSE HE IS NO GUNMAN.

HE HAD SOMETHING IN HIS HAND.

IF THE COP WOULD HAVE SHOT HIM IN THE LEG, I WOULD HAVE TAKEN THAT OVER HIM.

GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JENNA FLANNIGAN, TONIGHT WE GET USE OF THE DEATH OF A MAN WHO WAS SHOT TO DEATH AFTER OFFICERS MISTAKENLY BELIEVED HE WAS CARRYING A GUN.

IT WAS LATER DISCOVERED AFTER 10 ROUNDS HAD BEEN ENTIRED AT MR.

VASSAL, THAT THE ITEM IN HIS HAND WAS IN FACT A METAL PIPE.

SURVEILLANCE FOOTAGE OF VASSAL HAS BEEN RELEASED BRANDISHING A METAL OBJECT.

A VIGIL WAS HELD LAST NIGHT IN CROWN HEIGHTS TO REMEMBER THE LIFE OF MR. VASSAL AND TO DEMAND A FULL INVESTIGATION INTO THE EVENTS THAT SURROUNDED THE FATAL SHOOTING.

THAT RALLY WAS LED BY A NUMBER OF LEGISLATORS, INCLUDING STATE SENATOR JESSE HAMILTON, WHO I'M PLEASED TO WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

SENATOR HAMILTON, WELCOME.

THANK YOU.

FIRST LET'S START WITH THE POLICE TO BEGIN WITH.

BECAUSE WE NOW KNOW THERE WERE COMMUNITY POLICE IN THE NA NEIGHBORHOOD WHO KNEW MR. VASSAL AND THEY KNEW HE HAD MENTAL ISSUES, BUT THEY DIDN'T RESPOND TO A CALL.

WE HAVE FOR DECADES NOW IN NEW YORK CITY POLICE OFFICERS OVERREACTING TO MINOR CRIMES IN BLACK COMMUNITIES WITH EXCESSIVE FORCE.

HE WAS A YOUNG MAN WITH KNOWN MENTAL ISSUES, HE WENT TO CHURCH EVERY DAY, HE HELPED OUT ELDERLY PEOPLE.

SO HE WAS KNOWN AS A GOOD KID WITH MENTAL ISSUES, SO THE COMMUNITY IS QUESTIONING, WHY DID YOU HAVE TO SHOOT HIM DOWN.

SO WE HAVE A PROBLEM IN THE POLICE DEPARTMENT OF DEHUMANIZING PEOPLE OF COLOR IN OUR COMMUNITIES, ESPECIALLY YOUNG, BLACK MEN.

HAD SHAEED BEEN A PERSON WHO WAS WHITE, WOULD THE POLICE HAVE RESPONDED BY SHOOTING AND KILLING HIM?

THERE'S SO MANY QUESTIONS THAT FEED INTO THAT.

ONE OF THOSE IS THE 911 CALL, AND WE HAVE NOW HEARD THAT PEOPLE CALLING 911 WERE SAYING WE THINK THIS MAN HAS A GUN, OR THIS PERSON LOOKS LIKE HE HAS SOMETHING THAT MIGHT BE A GUN.

BUT WHEN IT GOT TO THE DISPATCHER, THE DISPATCHER SAID HE HAS A GUN.

SO IS THAT REALLY THE FAULT OF THE POLICE, WHEN THEY ARRIVE WHEN THEY ASSUME THEY ARE GOING TO A PLACE WHERE A SUSPECT HAD A GUN?

IT WAS NOT A GUN, IN FACT IT WAS A SHOWER HEAD THAT COULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE A GUN.

AND OFFICERS HAVE SECONDS TO REACT TO SOMEONE WAS SHOT.

THE POLICE DID NOT HEAR THAT SOMEONE WAS SHOT.

IF YOU KNOW ONE HAS A GUN, HOW DO YOU APPROACH THAT PERSON?

DO YOU TELL THEM TO STOP, PUT YOUR HANDS UP AND WAIT?

DO YOU THEN CLOSE IN ON THE PERSON GIVING THEM DIRECTIVES OF WHAT TO DO OR DO YOU JUST COME UPON A PERSON AND SECONDS LATER START SHOOTING.

SO THE QUESTION IS HOW DO WE DEAL WITH PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ISSUES, SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T HAVE THE MENTAL CAPACITY TO WAVE A GUN AROUND IN A NEIGHBORHOOD.

A LOT OF TIMES PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ISSUES WHO ENCOUNTER POLICE USUALLY DIE.

I WANT TO MAKE SURE WE HAVE TRAINING FOR POLICE OFFICERS.

LAST YEAR I HPASSED A LAW REQUIRING ALL POLICE OFFICERS TO TAKE A CPR COURSE EVERY TWO YEARS.

WE DO THE SAME THING FOR POLICE OFFICERS NOW WITH MENTAL HEALTH TRAINING, IF SOMEONE HAS A GUN, HOW DO I RESPOND?

IF THIS PERSON HAS A MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE, IS HE A THREAT?

DO WE APPROACH IT LIKE LIFE AND DEATH?

IS HE THREATENING ANYONE?

HE WAS NOT THREATENING ANYONE.

ACCORDING TO THE VIDEO, WE SEE THIS YOUNG MAN WITH THIS METAL PIPE WHO'S DRAN BENEF BRANDISHING IT IN A VERY AGGRESSIVE WAY.

AND IT LOOKS LIKE A PERSON WHO HAS A GUN.

WE STILL HAVE A PERSON WHO HAS A MENTAL DISABILITY, IN HIS MIND, IT'S A PLAY, HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN REACTING, AS FAR AS HE HAD A BAD DAY, MAYBE DIDN'T HAVE HIS MEDS, BUT HE WAS ACTING IN A MENACING WAY.

IF SOMEONE DOESN'T TAKE THEIR MEDICINE -- IN A DISPROPORTIONATE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WHO EVEN COUNTER PEOPLE WHO DO DIE, VERSUS THE PEOPLE OF COLOR WHO DO DIE.

WE ALSO KNOW THAT SO MANY OF THE PEOPLE IN COMMUNITY KNEW THAT SHAHEED HAD MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, AND HIS FAMILY KNEW HE WAS NOT TAKING HIS MEDS.

IS THERE ANY RESPONSIBILITY ON THE FAMILY THAT THEY KNEW HE WAS NOT TAKING HIS MEDS AND DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO?

I WANT TO MAKE SURE -- AND THERE'S A STIGMA IN OUR COMMUNITY, THE STIGMAS IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR ARE SEEING PSYCHIATRISTS OR PSYCHOLOGISTS.

THAT'S WHY WE'RE TRYING TO GET MORE SOCIAL WORKERS IN THE SCHOOL.

WE HAVE PSYCHIATRISTS AND SOCIAL WORKERS TALKING TO CHILDREN IN THE COMMUNITY TO FIND OUT IF THERE IS ANY PROBLEMS.

JUST GROWING UP IN A SHELTER, JUST GROWING UP BLACK SOMETIMES CAN HAVE A SIDE EFFECT.

WE CAN'T MANDATE THAT HE TAKE HIS MEDICATION, BUT THE QUESTION IS, HOW DO WE CREATE LAWS AND CREATE SERVICES.

I WANT TO TURN TO THE VIGIL AND THE MARCH THAT HAPPENED IN BROOKLYN, THIS IS ALL HAPPENING RIGHT ON THE HEELS OF THE SHOOTING IN CALIFORNIA OF THE YOUNG MAN STEPHON CLARK, AND I'M WONDERING WHAT WAS THE MOOD OF THE COMMUNITY AT THE PROTEST?

I MEAN, THERE'S A LOT OF ANGER.

WE HAD THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE ASSASSINATION OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING 50 YEARS LATER, AND WE'RE STILL TALKING ABOUT THE SAME ISSUES THAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT 50 YEARS AGO.

I THINK WHAT WE REALLY TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHEN IT COMES TO THESE SHOOTINGS IS WHAT DOES JUSTICE LOOK LIKE FOR THE FAMILY?

WHAT DOES THE VASSAL FAMILY WANT?

THE JUSTICE IS, THERE PROBABLY WILL BE A LAWSUIT.

BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT SEEN THE RESPONSE FROM THE POLICE ARRIVING AND THEM SHOOTING HIM.

WE JUST SEE HIM MENACING PEOPLE, BUT YOU DON'T SEE THE FOOTAGE OF THE POLICE GETTING ON THE SCENE AND HIM BEING SHOT.

HOW MUCH TIME ELAPSED BETWEEN THE POLICE OFFICERS ARRIVING ON THE SCENE AND HIM ACTUALLY SHOOTING HIM?

THAT'S THE QUESTION THAT I DO NOT HAVE ANSWERED.

THEY DO HAVE A VIDEOTAPE, THE QUESTION IS WHY HAVEN'T THEY SHOWN IT.

THERE'S ALWAYS TWO SIDES TO THE STORY, AND MAYBE ONE IN THE MIDDLE.

BUT THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY HAS NOT BEEN SHOWN OF THE ACTUAL ENCOUNTER BETWEEN THE POLICE AND MR. VASSAL, AND AS SOON AS PEOPLE CAN SEE THAT, A LOT OF QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED.

LISTEN, STATE SENATOR JESSE HAMILTON, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON THE PROGRAM, WE REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR INSIGHT, ESPECIALLY YOUR FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF WHAT TOOK PLACE IN CROWN HEIGHTS AND OF COURSE WE'LL BE FOLLOWING THIS STORY VERY CLOSELY.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME ON THE PROGRAM, GREAT TO BE HERE.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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