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Eric Vassell, Father of Saheed Vassell, Disappointed That Attorney General Letitia James Will Not Seek Indictments and Prosecutions of NYPD Officers Who Killed His Son Last Year

New York – Today, Eric Vassell, the father of Saheed Vassell, released the following statement in response to New York State Attorney General Letitia James' decision not to seek indictments and prosecutions of NYPD officers who killed his son last year in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

His statement today comes on the heels of a meeting Mr. Vassell had with the Attorney General's officer earlier today in Lower Manhattan about his son’s case.

“I am saddened and very disappointed that the Attorney General is refusing to seek indictments and prosecutions of the NYPD officers who killed my son. The Attorney General has the responsibility to prosecute police in cases of police killings like the one that cost my son his life -- both for unjust killings like what happened to Saheed and for the related misconduct and police cover-up that surrounds these killings," said Mr. Vassell.

"The NYPD officers who killed my son and those who engaged in related misconduct such as the illegal leaking of sealed records should be held accountable for their actions, lose their jobs, and go to jail. Civilian witnesses that the Attorney General interviewed were consistent that Saheed was gunned down within seconds of police exiting their vehicles. No civilian witnesses said they heard officers identify themselves or issue any verbal commands to my son before they gunned him down, and no civilian witnesses saw Saheed pointing in the manner police described at the time he was murdered. It is heartbreaking that once again, the criminal justice system is treating police as if they are above the law, and failing to hold them accountable for killing an unarmed Black man,” said Mr. Vassell.

The Attorney General's office has been investigating the killing of Saheed Vassell since April 2018 as the special prosecutor in this case.

Mr. Vassell and his allies have been calling for indictments and prosecutions of all NYPD officers in Saheed’s death.

Mr. Vassell vowed today to keep fighting for his son.

“My family’s fight for justice for Saheed will go on. We will continue to push Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD to deliver real accountability and real disciplinary consequences for the police officers who killed my son and to those who engaged in related misconduct, including illegally leaking sealed records. So far, none of the officers involved in murdering my son or the cover-up have been put on modified duty or received any other punishment for their misconduct. That’s wrong and completely unacceptable to me, my family, and the Crown Heights community,” said Mr. Vassell.

On April 4, 2018, Saheed Vassell, an unarmed son, father,  brother and beloved Crown Heights member was killed by NYPD officers from the hyper-militarized Strategic Response Group and plainclothes unit in broad daylight, in a hail of at least 10 bullets. His death occurred on the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

Four out of five officers on the scene reportedly shot at Saheed immediately upon arriving and exiting their cars, similar to how 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by police officers in Cleveland. According to the Attorney General's report, no civilian witnesses stated that they heard officers identify themselves, or issue any warnings or verbal commands before shooting Saheed, and no civilian witness corroborate the police account of Saheed's actions the moment he was shot.

Instead of being transparent with the release of all relevant information, the NYPD engaged in a public relations campaign to influence initial public perception of Vassell’s killing.

For 16 weeks after Saheed was killed, Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD refused to release the names of the officers responsible for killing Saheed Vassell in a hail of at least 10 bullets, despite the fact that other cities routinely release such information in the aftermath of shootings within 72 hours.

They placed all of the focus on Vassell, the victim of police violence, rather than officers’ actions, constructing and disseminating a self-serving narrative. They selectively released information, including doctored pictures and selectively-edited video. They even unlawfully leaked sealed information about Vassell’s alleged summonses and criminal justice history.

At the same time, the NYPD deflected attention from its officers’ actions in the incident, refusing to release the names, misconduct histories, and unedited video of the officers involved in the killing.  It was only through media leaks in late July 2018 that the public learned the names of police officers involved in Saheed’s death.

For the past year, Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD have refused to release the unedited footage of officers demanded by Saheed's family, or explain why the hyper-militarized Strategic Response Group was deployed, while neighborhood officers who knew Saheed were not dispatched. To the Vassell family's knowledge, no involved officers have been served administrative charges or placed on modified duty.


About Communities United for Police Reform

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.

CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.

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