Police located Vassell who then, according to Monahan, "took a two-handed shooting stance, and pointed an object at the approaching officers". The object, however, turned out to be a metal pipe with a knob on it.
The officers believed the suspect was holding a firearm, a senior police official told a news conference on Wednesday, and three plainclothes officers and one uniformed officer fired 10 shots.
A plainclothes officer in the passenger seat got out of the auto and fired at the man several times, Mr. Hinds said. "They say it's a gun, it's silver", one caller said, according to a police transcript.
Others told the Times Vassell "was a familiar figure on the corner", and that "he had a penchant for picking things up off the street - cigarette lighters, empty bottles and other curbside flotsam - and playing with them like toys". Some people say that the police spoke briefly with Vassell, while others say that they fired without saying anything.
The Muslim plaintiffs alleged in a 2012 lawsuit that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks NYPD officers violated their civil rights by surveilling them exclusively on the basis of their religion.
The shooting sparked anger from residents in the neighborhood who described the victim as a quirky character who was known to be mentally ill but harmless, the New York Daily News reported. He said Vassell had "a profound mental health problem". The circumstances surrounding the encounter only worsened his odds of surviving an encounter with police.
The shooting comes just two weeks after police fatally shot Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California, after receiving calls that someone in the neighborhood was breaking vehicle windows.
According to the partial transcripts of the 911 calls released by the department, one caller reported that Vassell "looks like he's insane but he's pointing something at people that looks like a gun". That kind of wobbly intel from civilians that primes officers to shoot quickly featured in the high-profile police killings of Tamir Rice and John Crawford in Ohio.
Saheed's father, Eric Vassell, said his son was bipolar but had not taken medication for years.
Some elements of Wednesday's shooting echo the fatal March 18 shooting of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man who was also believed by officers to be holding a gun. "Aren't the police trained how to defend [themselves] and prevent killing a mental person?" "I said to him, 'I don't know how to use a computer.' He said, 'Auntie, I got you'". He was "a caring father who begged for money in a nearby subway station and did odd jobs for shopkeepers".
"A police department not acknowledging wrongdoing is akin to a congressman's 'no comment, ' " Farhaj Hassan, the lead plaintiff and a sergeant in the US Army Reserves, told reporters Thursday. "Too many black people are dying at hands of police officers and it's about time something be done".
This piece has been updated to note Schneiderman's announcement.