Thousands Protest the Death of Man Wielding Torch Pipe

Thousands marched in Crown Heights to protest of the death of Saheed Vassell, a man with a mental illness who was shot by police while brandishing a pipe resembling a gun, while many residents and neighbors of the man agreed with the NYPD’s actions in the encounter.


Moments before the final days of the holiday of Passover was to begin, thousands bore down on Crown Heights to protest the death of Saheed Vassell, a 34 year old man who family members said was mentally ill.

Vassell was shot on Thursday, April 5th, by police officers who were responding to multiple 911 calls of a man brandishing a handgun and pointing it at people walking on Utica Avenue.

In surveillance video, quickly released by the NYPD, it shows Vassell pointing what looks to be a silver handgun at a number of random people he passes by and finally taking a “shooting stance” and pointing the object at responding police officers who opened fire, striking him between 7 and 9 times. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he unfortunately succumbed to his wounds

Nevertheless, agitators took to social media and interviewed to local TV news stations claiming he “had his hands up” and that he was “executed,” sparking a protest which drew over 1,000 protesters.

Fear spread through the Jewish community in Crown Heights with the planned protest to take place as the final days of the Passover holiday to begin, and on a night in which the faithful remain up all night to study. Adding to the fear was the protests planned route to cross through the heart of the Jewish neighborhood.

Over 1,000 gathered the site the shooting, on the corner of Utica Avenue and Montgomery Street, and following fiery speech’s which contained very strong anti-police rhetoric the group marched to Empire Boulevard and on to the 71st Precinct on New York Avenue.

This reporter observed that a large percentage of the crowd was white, and many carried signs saying “mental illness is not a death sentence,” “black lives matter” and “shoot to disarm, not shoot to kill.” Though others took a much more troubling tone such as “NYPD = KKK,” “abolish the NYPD,” and “a man was lynched yesterday.”

A majority of the signs were sponsored by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and many protestors wore buttons and paraphernalia advocating the end of capitalism. learned that during the march protesters shouted “free Palestine,” and “end the occupation” at orthodox Jews on their way to synagogue. Notably, one of the protest sponsors was “united for Palestine” and was attended by Linda Sarsour, an anti-Israel activist and promoter of the BDS movement.

“It is a troubling trend in which we are seeing attempts by these anti-Israel and BDS activists trying to align themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement,” noted one resident.

Other than the disruption of traffic and chanting, the protest was peaceful. There were no reported arrests or any damage to property.

Following the protest articles in both the New York Post and Daily News quoted residents as largely in support of the NYPD’s actions. “I was very upset, but when I saw the video, I have to give it to cops. They were not 100 percent wrong because the thing in his hand looks like a gun,” one woman told the post.

In an interview one of the 911 callers told the News that she recalled the slain man marching up to a random young man — who then collapsed. She was certain the youth had just been shot. “I was looking for his blood, until he got up and ran,” the woman told The News. “I was expecting the gun to go off. It was only a matter of time before (Vassell) shot somebody.”

Noticeably absent from the protest was Al Sharpton, though he did make an appearance on Sunday, April 8th, alongside Lorna and Eric Vassell, parents of Saheed Vassell, and demanded that the entire video footage of the encounter be released.

Photos by Mo Gelber


  • 1. where did they come from wrote:

    never saw this many white people in crown heights

    • 2. Where did they come from? wrote:

      Ooh, they’re here alright. You just gotta open your eyes and find them.
      On second thought, don’t.

    • 3. Milhouse wrote:

      Yes, these are the same people who are on video saying kaddish for the dead terrorists in Gaza, yimach shemom. I don’t believe most of these people are really Jews.

  • 4. CR wrote:

    “Abolish the NYPD”

    And that, ladles and gentlemints, is what these “protests” are all about. The gangsters and their apologists in politics and media want to make the environment safer for “business.” This poor mentally ill fellow is mere collateral damage to these monsters.

  • 5. CHT wrote:

    My slogan:


  • 6. Anonymous wrote:

    The marchers should march in thanks and appreciation to the NYPD who helped make our streets safer.

  • 7. Milhouse wrote:

    There is no such thing as shooting to disarm. It simply does not exist outside movies. If you have to shoot someone, there is only one way to do it — shoot to stop, which means shoot at the center of mass. Trying trick shooting in a real life-or-death situation is irresponsible and dangerous.

    And the idiot with the sign “I have bipolar disorder but they would not have shot me because I’m white” has more wrong with him than just bipolar disorder; he’s also delusional. Let him rest assured that if he ever behaves the way this guy did the police will shoot him with even LESS hesitation, because he’s white so they know there will be no riots and they won’t be railroaded and have their careers destroyed over it.

  • 9. Disgusting wrote:

    The man was clearly pointing what looked to be a gun in peoples faces and at the police. Police responded to call from black residents.
    Looking forward to your “dayenu” sign the next time a black man beats up a bachur.

  • 10. Anon Resident wrote:

    The environment was toxic. I myself was on the receiving end of anti-Semitic epithets by a group of agitators. Not surprised.

  • 11. Socialists in the Chood wrote:

    If you look closely at the signs, these are the same socialists that protest at anything that has to do with capitalism or Israel.
    Shame on the local politicians for not supporting the police who acted appropriately.

    What would some of our politicians do if their family members had a knife put to their throat or a gun to their chest by a crazy person ?

    My sympathy is for the innocent people, not for those engaging in criminal behavior. – the shooting was the result of mental and criminal behavior.

    The problem is the city is closing down the mental institutions and non-medical professionals are making money by warehousing them in your neighborchood.

  • 12. Phony Protestors wrote:

    Where are these protestors when minorities get shot by other minorities ?

    According the to the NYPD’s 2016 Crime and Enforcement Activity in NYC, about 95% of the shooting victims were minority. (shooting victims were black (72.5%) or Hispanic (23.3%); shooting suspects were black (70.7%) and Hispanic (26.9%)

    If Black Lives Matter, then why don’t they create their own Shomrim ? Because BLM hates the police more than they love their own….that’s the difference.

  • 14. Liberals wrote:

    Mostly white liberals “protesting”, the people from OUR neighborhood know the truth.

  • 15. Are they really? wrote:

    Are all these protests we read about against police really instigated by Moslems who are trying to get people to come out against the government who seem to be in favor of Israel?

  • 16. Positive energy, but... wrote:

    …the efforts should be expended on protesting black suffrage. It’ll significantly benefit the country.

  • 17. Batsheva W. wrote:

    I don’t blame the cops. It looked like he had a gun.
    So this protest was a stupid waste of time.
    Great photos though.

  • 18. Who they gonna call? wrote:

    When you are G-D forbid in an emergency situation….
    If they are so so so scared of the NYPD and want to abolish them….I hope they never call 9-1-1 if they need help.
    Gotta a funny feeling that if they saw that guy running down the street putting what looked like a gun at them they would run to a police officer and not run to the guy himself and say ” protect me, protect me….”

    Bunch of hypocrites and disillusioned folks

    Yes, police should be careful before they act, but they are also not G-D, and act upon what they see…they don’t exactly have the time to perform a psychiatric evaluation before they decide what to do…and even if it is a psychiatric patient, if they think he’s about to shoot then let’s see what all you brave demonstrators would do in that situation….you’d run for your lives.

    Don’t go knocking the police so fast, mistakes and all, you don’t want a city without them, not until Moshiach comes anyways.

  • 19. I give the cops credit wrote:

    just for standing there in the face of such hatred and not rioting themselves

    Unfortunately some of the biggest racism in the US is by black people towards cops, towards white people

    When one of their own is killed by their own, which happens all the time, then mysteriously, “black lives matter” demonstrators simply dissapear…

    If they care so much, let them go help people before things get to the point of hunger, crime, hate and absolute depression and sadness

  • 20. The only sign of all these demonstrators wrote:

    that makes proper sense…
    is the shoot to disarm and not to shoot to kill

    and even that depends on the situation

    G-D bless America

  • 21. Estée wrote:

    Thank you NYPD for helping to keep us safe!
    I don’t care what these protesters say but Utica Ave has many scary crazy people I’m always scared to walk there.
    There is this crazy guy that puts red and green things near President st and a few times he’s chased me down the street using very antisimetic words.
    Thank you for keeping us safe NYPD

  • 22. Uncle Mendel wrote:

    I am certain that most of the sign carriers were unable to read or write them.
    Remember A’s “U Rent a Riot”?

  • 23. george Soros wrote:

    Georgie boy is behind all this
    he funds all of these demonstrations and riots.
    he was behind occupy wall street
    he is behind black lives matter

    I assure you that the neighborhood working black people are not proud of the demonstrators and they mostly likely feel they are being exploited..

    They know better than the rest of us what goes on and are grateful to the police for responding.
    this is so twisted – if the police did not respond that would be a crime.

  • 24. Ahavasyisroel wrote:

    Are there bad cops? Yeah, that is why people should be able to defend themselves and not depend on the police and FBI to be there for them. But I don’t think those protestors will want to hear that…

  • 25. soxfan wrote:

    The usual suspects…

    Troubling however is that many of those protest signs appear to be made professionally and that costs money and shows an organization.

  • 26. Boruch W wrote:

    This guy commited “suicide by cop”. The police officer observed him in a shooting posture which he clearly intended to fool everyone with a pipe that appeared to be the barrel of a gun. It’s tragic whenever a mentally ill man commits suicide, but his final act was suicidal. The police acted in protocol with neutralizing a perceived threat. As saying goes; ain odom dayan ella ma sheaynov royois.

  • 27. new training wrote:

    if someone is holding a gun towards a police officer he first has to ask if its real or not, then if hes still alive he has to ask if hes mentally stable, if they are still alive somehow, then they have to make sure hes ok getting shot, this is only with white people. if your black the cop shouæd give him the gun to help him.

  • 28. idiots!!!!!! wrote:

    Look who is protesting.
    Moslem, Anti Semites!!!
    Black, Anti Semites,
    White, Anti Semites.
    We should have a PRO POLICE demonstration!!!!!

  • 29. 27 IS RIGHT - support the police wrote:

    problem is we would wind up being under (gun) fire if we took the police side….

    btw: most black shot by police (for sure in NYPD)
    are shot by black police officers…wonder y? maybe they know whom they’re dealing with !!!!!!

  • 30. 27 IS RIGHT - support the police wrote:

    call the 71st pct and show support

    718-735-0511 EXT # 3 and leave message

  • 31. r32mm wrote:

    police felt that their safety were threatned,
    as well as the fact that the moral responsibility lays alot on Big Pharma, because psychiatric cases are very troublesome, since the Pharmaceutical world has not created very helpful solutions to psychiatric illness, so those who are on meds are not really helping very much or rather not efficiently.

  • 32. Shimon wrote:

    So sick and tired of everyone coddling the mentally ill. Take them into your home if you’re so concerned. The police did the community a favor. It was only a matter of time before it was a real gun.


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