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Police killing of pipe-wielding NYC man called legal

Published
File-This April 5, 2018, file photo shows hundreds rallying  for a march to the 71st Precinct on Empire Boulevard to protest Wednesday's fatal police shooting of Saheed Vassell, a 34-year-old in the Crown Heights neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York. Police officers were “legally justified” in the killing of a mentally disturbed man they said was wielding a piece of pipe like a gun on a New York City street, according to a report on the shooting released Friday, March 29, 2019. The review by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James cleared New York Police Department officers who opened fired on Saheed Vassell in response to reports of an armed man menacing people on the streets of Brooklyn in 2018. “Based of a review of all the evidence … the NYPD officers who shot Mr. Vassell were legally justified,” the report concluded. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Police officers were "legally justified" in the killing of a mentally disturbed man they said was wielding a piece of pipe like a gun on a New York City street, according to a report on the shooting released Friday.

The review by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James cleared New York Police Department officers who opened fire on Saheed Vassell in response to reports of an armed man menacing people on the streets of Brooklyn in 2018.

The report said the victim had a history of mental illness, but the officers didn't know about it. It also cited transcripts of 911 calls from witness saying that Vassell was pointing an object that appeared to be a pistol.

Security videotape released by police shortly after the incident showed the 34-year-old man raising the object in a two-handed shooting stance moments before officers unleashed 10 shots that left him dead. His weapon turned out to be an L-shaped section of pipe from a welding tool.

The killing sparked unrest by protesters saying it was another example of an unarmed black man dying at the hands of police officers.

There was no immediate response to a message left Friday seeking comment from a lawyer for Vassell's family.

In a statement, Police Commissioner James O'Neill said the NYPD would consider recommendations by the attorney general to improve how it responses to similar situations.

"The death of Mr. Vassell was a tragedy that no police officer - or anyone - would ever want to occur," O'Neill said.

File- This April 5, 2018, file photo provided by the New York Police Department shows a metal object at the scene where police officers fatally shot a man who was reported to be threatening people with a gun, which turned out to be a metal pipe that police mistook for a firearm, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Saheed Vassell, 34, was killed  in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Police officers were “legally justified” in the killing of a mentally disturbed man they said was wielding a piece of pipe like a gun on a New York City street, according to a report on the shooting released Friday, March 29, 2019. The review by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James cleared New York Police Department officers who opened fired on Saheed Vassell in response to reports of an armed man menacing people on the streets of Brooklyn in 2018. “Based of a review of all the evidence … the NYPD officers who shot Mr. Vassell were legally justified,” the report concluded. (New York Police Department via AP, File)
File-This April 5, 2018, file photo shows hundreds rallying  for a march to the 71st Precinct on Empire Boulevard to protest Wednesday's fatal police shooting of Saheed Vassell, a 34-year-old in the Crown Heights neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York. Police officers were “legally justified” in the killing of a mentally disturbed man they said was wielding a piece of pipe like a gun on a New York City street, according to a report on the shooting released Friday, March 29, 2019. The review by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James cleared New York Police Department officers who opened fired on Saheed Vassell in response to reports of an armed man menacing people on the streets of Brooklyn in 2018. “Based of a review of all the evidence … the NYPD officers who shot Mr. Vassell were legally justified,” the report concluded. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)
File-This April 5, 2018, file photo shows hundreds rallying for a march to the 71st Precinct on Empire Boulevard to protest Wednesday's fatal police shooting of Saheed Vassell, a 34-year-old in the Crown Heights neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York. Police officers were “legally justified” in the killing of a mentally disturbed man they said was wielding a piece of pipe like a gun on a New York City street, according to a report on the shooting released Friday, March 29, 2019. The review by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James cleared New York Police Department officers who opened fired on Saheed Vassell in response to reports of an armed man menacing people on the streets of Brooklyn in 2018. “Based of a review of all the evidence … the NYPD officers who shot Mr. Vassell were legally justified,” the report concluded. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)
File- This April 5, 2018, file photo provided by the New York Police Department shows a metal object at the scene where police officers fatally shot a man who was reported to be threatening people with a gun, which turned out to be a metal pipe that police mistook for a firearm, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Saheed Vassell, 34, was killed  in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Police officers were “legally justified” in the killing of a mentally disturbed man they said was wielding a piece of pipe like a gun on a New York City street, according to a report on the shooting released Friday, March 29, 2019. The review by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James cleared New York Police Department officers who opened fired on Saheed Vassell in response to reports of an armed man menacing people on the streets of Brooklyn in 2018. “Based of a review of all the evidence … the NYPD officers who shot Mr. Vassell were legally justified,” the report concluded. (New York Police Department via AP, File)
File- This April 5, 2018, file photo provided by the New York Police Department shows a metal object at the scene where police officers fatally shot a man who was reported to be threatening people with a gun, which turned out to be a metal pipe that police mistook for a firearm, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Saheed Vassell, 34, was killed in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Police officers were “legally justified” in the killing of a mentally disturbed man they said was wielding a piece of pipe like a gun on a New York City street, according to a report on the shooting released Friday, March 29, 2019. The review by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James cleared New York Police Department officers who opened fired on Saheed Vassell in response to reports of an armed man menacing people on the streets of Brooklyn in 2018. “Based of a review of all the evidence … the NYPD officers who shot Mr. Vassell were legally justified,” the report concluded. (New York Police Department via AP, File)