NEW YORK – Police officers responding to reports of a man threatening people with a gun on Wednesday fatally shot a man carrying a metal pipe, mistaking it for a firearm, police said.
It happened just before 5 p.m. in the Crown Heights neighbourhood of Brooklyn after three 911 callers said a “man was pointing a silver firearm at people on the street,” according to NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan.
Five officers, three in plainclothes and two in uniform, responded and encountered a man matching the description in the 911 calls.
“The suspect took a two-handed shooting stance and pointed an object at the approaching officers, two of whom were in uniform, said Monahan.
Four of the officers then fired a total of 10 rounds, striking the man, who was later found to be holding a “pipe with some sort of knob at the end,” he said.
The unidentified man was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Four officers were treated for minor injuries.
Dozens of police cars converged on the area, and a crowd of about 200 people gathered around the cordoned-off intersection, said 33-year-old resident Shaya Tenenbaum, who added that a few people in the crowd shouted at police.
Andre Wilson, 38, told the Daily News that he has known the victim for 20 years, describing him as a quirky neighbourhood character.
“All he did was just walk around the neighbourhood,” he said. “He speaks to himself, usually he has an orange Bible or a rosary in his hand. He never had a problem with anyone.”
Wilson said he was shocked that it would come to this.
“The officers from the neighbourhood, they know him. He has no issue with violence. Everybody just knows he’s just mentally challenged. This shouldn’t have happened at all.”
The shooting comes after the police killing of an unarmed black man on March 18 in Sacramento, California, sparked two weeks of protests and calls for police reform.
Stephon Clark, 22, was shot by officers responding to a report of someone breaking car windows. Police said they thought he had a gun, but he was carrying only a cellphone.
In a private autopsy commissioned by Clark’s family, prominent pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu announced that Clark was hit by eight bullets – six in the back, one in the neck and one in the thigh – and took three to 10 minutes to die. Police waited about five minutes before rendering medical aid.