NEW YORK (AP) — Police seeking to defend their killing of a New York City man they mistakenly believed was armed with a gun released videotape on Thursday showing him brandishing a metal object like a weapon and provided excerpts of 911 calls reporting a man threatening people with a pistol.
Snippets of security videos put out on the New York Police Department's Twitter account show Saheed Vassell, who had a history of mental illness, thrusting something that looked like the barrel of a gun into the faces of three people on the street, including a woman holding the hand of a child.
A last video showed him crouch and point the object again — this time, police said, in the direction of officers arriving on the scene. They responded with 10 gunshots.
Only after he was fatally wounded did the officers discover that the metal object was an L-shaped pipe.
According to the partial transcripts of the 911 calls released by the department, one caller reported that Vassell "looks like he's crazy but he's pointing something at people that looks like a gun."
"Where is the gun?" a dispatcher asked one caller. "His hand," the caller replied.
The release of the edited material — the full videos and transcripts weren't immediately provided — was meant to back up claims by the police department that the four plainclothes and two uniformed officers who responded had a legitimate reason to believe they needed to move swiftly to stop a deadly threat.