This week, the family of Saheed Vassell, city council members and community activist groups delivered over 20,000 petitions to City Hall, urging the city to release more information regarding the shooting.
On April 4,Vassell, 34, who lived with mental health issues, was shot at least ten times in Crown Heights, Brooklyn by five police officers. Law enforcement received 911 calls from residents citing a man in the street holding a gun, which turned out to be a welding torch.
Vassell’s parents are calling for transparency from the NYPD and the city. Over two months later, the family still hasn’t received the names of the officers who shot the victim. They are also seeking an explanation as to why the militarized Strategic Response Group counterterrorism unit was deployed to handle the situation
Instead of releasing the officers’ names, the NYPD quickly released the victim’s alleged criminal history.
“It has now been over 11 weeks and the fact that Mayor de Blasio has failed to provide basic transparency around the killing of our son leads us to believe the worst – that this mayor and the NYPD are trying to cover-up something,” said Vassell’s parents, Eric and Lorna.
There are discrepancies between witness and police accounts. Witness say the police didn’t give any verbal command or warning before firing at Vassell
Social justice organization Color of Change has joined forces with the victim’s family to demand transparency from the city.
“It is outrageous that we still do not know the names of the officers involved in Saheed’s murder and that full, unedited footage of the police’s actions has not been released. Mayor de Blasio’s refusal to hold the police accountable sets a dangerous precedent and continues to give the NYPD the freedom to attack our communities without fear of punishment,” warns Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change.
Justice Committee Co-Director Loyda Colon said, “Why is it that the de Blasio administration still has not released the names of the officer who killed Saheed Vassell? Why were officers from a highly militarized, counter-terrorism unit among those who killed him? The fact that Saheed’s family and the public do not have answers to these questions is part of a regressive trend of the de Blasio era to create more and more secrecy surrounding the practices and misconduct of the NYPD. We should all be asking, what is this administration and police department hiding from us? And we should all be terrified and enraged.”
Reports indicate Eric Vassell, the father of the victim is suing the NYPD officers and the city for $25 million.