stock photo

Americans with a mentally ill family member say they will not call 911 if the person has a emotional breakdown or begins to act out violently. New Yorkers fear their mentally ill family members will be shot and killed by police after an emotionally disturbed man was gunned down by cops this week.

Saheed Vassell was a regular fixture on the corner of Empire Blvd in Crown Heights. Vassell suffered from bipolar disorder. He was often seen walking and muttering to himself on the boulevard. He was considered harmless by everyone who knew him on the block.

"He's polite, nice, he's kind. He just comes and he goes," his father said.

Police officers in the neighborhood knew he was mentally ill as well. On Wednesday, he was seen brandishing a small pipe.

Four cops responding to 911 calls about a man with a gun opened fire on Vasell when he pointed the pipe at them. He was shot nine times.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said his understanding was that Vassell had mental health issues.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched to the spot where Vassell died on Thursday. They accused the NYPD of taking target practice on black men.

Black people are acutely aware that police in America respond differently to skin color. 9 times out of 10, white men with guns are ordered to put the gun down, while black men are gunned down regardless of what they are holding in their hands.

"My husband is a brown man who struggles with bipolar disorder," Rama Issa-Ibrahim told the NY Daily News. "I don't feel safe calling the cops."

“When he’s experiencing any kind of emotional distress, I don’t feel comfortable calling the cops. I don’t feel safe calling the cops.”

Mental health advocates say there have been seven incidents of emergency calls resulting in fatal encounters with police.

"It’s happening almost every month,” said Carla Rabinowitz, of Community Access, a nonprofit that provides housing and employment training to people with mental health issues.

“No other community would accept this.”

Stock photo by Steve Debenport

  • PhillyFacts

    The law don't care about our loved ones mental status, all they see is black men and women whom are all perceived as threat.

  • ShelbyMoore

    Maybe cause black people know that the police are going to shoot the medically ill person. Police are not mental health professionals and the so called training that they are receiving isn't enough. Especially when a lot of the police have mental health issues themselves.

    They really need to reopen the mental health clinics/hospitals because the mentally ill have no reason to be in jail. They need help. Instead of worshiping money, people need to go back to family ties. No one cares about anyone anymore. Everything is the "bag". I've not heard about money this much in my life. Look at the position this country is in...this is all because of the love of money.

  • xenaD

    Cops r so desperate to cover their tracks and prove it was a clean kill!! They plastered a video of this edp waving around that shower head as if it were a gun! Now idk protocol of nypd but I do know that tape was released so fast it makes me wonder ???
    Smh. I just hate the fact that gun or no gun, being black is a threat in and of itself! That’s fd up

  • Ni Ni

    They really need to reopen the mental health clinics/hospitals
    It's too costly to reopen them, so they say. It's truly a shame because we really do need them.

  • ?Sugar&Spice?


  • Ghost

    Yes it is a shame! Our city's mayor closed about 80% of the mental health we have mentally ill folks running rapid along the help nor medication! Jail is definitely NOT the answer...


    Why nobody never interview me or my family and friends? When im around my mentall ill family members I walk around with my phone and knife... Ready to use both...

  • free


  • Tausha T. W.

    You mean grown men with clubs & who have been trained in self defense had to shoot ONE man brandishing a metal pioe?

    If I shot someone who was brandishing a metal pipe I cannot legally claim self defense. But I can if I use a metal pipe to attack a person with a gun. The gun is not considered equal to the pipe.

  • Tausha T. W.

    Fuhrer Trump has declared open season on black people.

  • Roxie Moxie

    I agree. Yet, an Upstate NY Mayor wants to open supervised injection facilities for drug addicts where they can safely inject heroin?? What kinda backwards a** world are we living in??

  • SweetTEE

    I had a friend who's mentally disabled brother was shot and killed in front of his entire family by police when a stranger called and said someone was "acting weird'. Picture the race of the stranger and police officer. The family repeated multiple times that the young man was mentally disabled and the police shot him anyway. They now have a major lawsuit against the police department and city. Hell naw, you shouldnt call the police unless you want that person to die.

  • SweetTEE

    We absolutely know this will happen if we call.

  • Ni Ni

    I saw that on the news last night. They are making all these provisions for junkies. If they aren't mentally when they start, they will be. It's like the city leaders want to turn people into zombies.

  • oshh16

    Sad shame but true...

  • angrysolo

    dam calling the cops is starting to be like calling a hit man, but legal

  • SandraRose

    Right, because black men weren't getting shot every week when Obama was in office. ?

  • ShelbyMoore

    It's not too costly...they're just too busy getting paid from the privatized prisons, as well as making money on the stock market from the privatized prisons. They're too busy making slaves and making money off of said slaves to look at the bigger picture. This country is in dire need of mental health facilities.

    For this country to claim they are up there with other countries in the EU, they're truly lacking. No universal healthcare, no free and/or schools priced in a manner to which ppl can afford and not come out with overwhelming debt, no housing, etc. The list goes on and on. Yet, the US is supposed to be this powerhouse of a country.

  • ShelbyMoore

    Always their MO...look out for the Colonizers and turn blacks into slaves to the legal system/privatized prison system.

  • Roxie Moxie

    Probably! We already bringing back the dead with Narcan.

  • Nonya Bizness

    San Francisco is opening a Heroin Shoot up Clinic July 1st. It's Bizarre AH.

  • Roxie Moxie

    "Yet, the US is supposed to be this powerhouse of a country".

    I always questioned this. You're spot on with this comment. It's just the illusion of a "powerhouse" and "freedoms". We can pick the job/career of our choice, where we live, what car to drive, etc....but that is extent of said "freedoms".

  • Roxie Moxie

    Good ole pipeline......

  • ShelbyMoore

    Did you see when the cops in England (I believe) disarmed the man with a machete without firing a shot?

    Right, if you're such a woosy, perhaps you shouldn't become a police officer. A phone, a pipe, a knife...none of those things can hurt you unless you are within walking distance (especially not the phone). Yet, the find it normal to kill people who aren't harming them.

  • Roxie Moxie

    *wide eyes* So, this sh*t is really happening! smh That's gotta be scary asf. I mean, do they live at this facilities too, or once they shoot up, they can roam the streets?? I'm confused on this subject.

  • Shawty

    What happened to protect & serve. Shooting us down is not protecting us!

  • Applebootay

    Ironically, gang members have street named the gun "pole" least here in chicago. One kid (15 yrs old) told me, "they almost got me because I didn't have my pole" My old azz replied "A pole is not going to help you in these streets..." Him:"My pole is my gun, that's what we call it...." Life.....I think I'm up for a social media, media break, I'm an empath and all this crazy is wearing me down..

  • Kemi

    Korryn Gaines was suffering from mental health issues too. Police were informed about her mental status by her family and they still shot and killed her anyway.

  • sunni_daze

    I made my mind up years ago that I will only call the cops regarding my people if its life or death, other wise na.

  • sunni_daze

    Protect and Serve does not apply to black people. It was never meant to, we were considered property.

  • sunni_daze

    Its been open season on blacks for 500 yrs. From the moment we were stolen.

  • Tausha T. W.

    Obama paid lip service. He didn't do anything but at least he said something.

    The white people are being more bold about it & no one will stop them, therefore open season.

  • Tausha T. W.

    Finally, someone with critical thinking skills.

  • Tausha T. W.


  • Roxie Moxie

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've read that "law enforcement" upon it's creation was after the freeing of slaves so that they could monitor them and ensure they didn't rise up and fight back. So, it's crazy to think that in this day and age, anything would be different.

  • Roxie Moxie

    Which is why there are "plenty" of things to protect me and my family in the home. Gun ranges help to ensure an accurate shot. I don't want to miss.

  • Trace da Ace

    wow...what the fuck?? They could have taser him instead of shooting!!! Like what could he have done with the pipe in time for a cop to hit him with a taser??? Do they not use that anymore????

  • Trace da Ace

    I know thats right!!!!!

  • klwbaby

    The idea behind those facilities is that the drug users will have access to clean needles(to stop the spread of HIV or hepatitis) and clean water(some use toilet water). They also will have access to treatment if the user wants to stop. Its a couple of things on YouTube if u want to learn more about them.

  • PL?Y R&B

    Black people should know better than calling the police by now...

  • yvette46

    This been going on forever!! The reason we know so fast is because of social media apps and such.. Murder of black folk will never end so stop wearing out your tennis shoes and protesting!!

  • Reina1718

    Y dont we rally against black on black crime? We kill each other everyday over "beef" someone was just killed the other day over sneakers! Our young black youth shot & killed a teenager (black too) then took off his sneakers!!! We gotta deal with dirty cops & our own dirty ppl!

  • Reina1718

    But put all of our black families in jail over crack! Where was the help for that smh they love helping white ppl

  • Rayne

    If I did have a family member that had any kind of mental illness I’m sure not gonna call the coppers. They don’t help at all. I’ve been known to talk ppl down and I’m pretty damn good at it.

  • CrunchyBlack1

    why isn't there a mental health force you can call instead of the police. wouldn't it make more sense for a fireman to come than a gun toting cop. they're still men at the end of the day

  • Shawty

    I'm sure the manual they read from DID NOT say excluding blacks. You suppose to serve and protect us ALL.

  • Shawty

    Hummm...that give me something to think about

  • sunni_daze

    Oh really? Who they shooting and killing daily with no reprecussions, its not White ppl. Did you not hear about the cop who told his subordinates to shoot black boys. But you keep believing the hype, I wish you luck.

  • free

    they being dealt with. did you not see the latest story of the 15 year old in alabama who didn't plead to 25 years so the judge gave him 65 years for taking his case to trial?

  • Anji

    There are in LA for decades. They respond quickly but most families don't use them or keep the phone numbers handy.

  • Candance

    I need more proof that it is safe to call police for that kind of help. Why would I trust them to help at my most vulnerable state??? The media puts all this BS on the blogs and in the news about how awful the police are towards blacks and browns then question why don't we do this or that.... we cant without great risk or possible sacrifice. I'm not trying to be a hashtag for the sake of mental health awareness. This comment is not necessarily towards this particular post, more so this topic in general. Race does matter in so many situations and until we fix that we will be reporting these types of stories with this kind of honesty only on Black Blogs. Its just crazy... ok my rant is over. - Racism is starting to kill my vibe!

  • A J

    Dude was pointing what look like a gun at random folks. Back in the day folk would keep them at home in the back room. Society should not have their lives jeopardized due to someone's mentally defective relative.

  • A J

    Most are combative

  • A J

    If Uncle Sam can spend billions on illegals & other countries they can reopen the mental health clinics/hospitals. America 1st

  • A J

    End times!

  • 4FlavorsOfMe CreoleMami

    I remember a few years ago one of my brothers who is in military he passed out collapsed on the floor from a rough week of job stress and relationship issues with his girl at the time etc so I was scared and I called an ambulance to come check on him. I opened the door and the Emergency people plus 4 cops were at the door and they were all standing at attention like they was ready to pop off 0-o I was like no its okay he is not violent or anything he just passed out I was worried... They heard the words "military" and "anxiety attack" and they were on high alert

  • Bee jaay Cee

    They have Mental health crisis teams you can call in CA. If you get involved and the police know you, and you live in certain're pretty safe. We run homes for MI or DD persons. One police asked a relative why I didn't like him. I said, I'd better correct that really quick. Next time he came for a possible 51/50 psych hold on a client, he said.... "let's start over". One time afterward a family member called the police at my home without my knowledge. When they arrived, the first thing I said is officer--------? They knew I was connected in and left without killing anyone.

  • Bee jaay Cee

    You are right. You have to know the triggers and if you can't deescalate the situation, you have to know who to call. People with mental illness could be hallucinating and think they are pointing a real gun at a real threat. Aliens and the FBI come to mind, they always think the gov'ment is after them and we had one woman try to jump out of a moving car because she thought aliens were after her.

  • Bee jaay Cee

    I saw that. The article said that he smirked and laughed during trial.

  • Bee jaay Cee

    You are right but look how we allowed ourselves to be drawn away from morality and plain common sense. How many Kardashian and Beyoncé's stans do we have on this board alone? Why do we care that and so went shopping and so is seen here driving a new and so just released a single titled "That Bitch is my Nigga". Get it? We have become so shallow. Even in church, how many of you can name all 66 books of the bible? The 12 sons of Israel? The 10 commandments? The 12 disciples? How many of you are "saved" but still have sex outside of marriage? Things have really changed and they are not going back to how things used to be.

  • Bee jaay Cee

    They are placing those persons in large bed facilities, or smaller bed state licensed homes in CA. Some families do not want to place their kin in these homes because they do not want to give up that SSI check, or they feel quilty. There are some very good homes. Our guys just came off of a 4 day cruise. When we do call the police to these homes, they are very careful about not hurting them and it is even difficult to get a 51/50 psych hold. Also, they usually know the clients or the home. They stop to chat and will say and so used to live here. They are over at ------- home now. We haven't been here in a while...etc.

  • Reina1718

    Yeah that one i jus read smh

  • Chicagowise

    "Vassell suffered from bipolar disorder. He was often seen walking and muttering to himself..."

    Bipolarism doesn't make you talk to yourself, hear voices or point pipes at cops. This is possibly the most misunderstood diagnosis on the planet.

  • Chicagowise

    I used to work at a psychiatric facility. Our patients typically came straight from jail, prison or hospital psyche wards. Some of them had seriously injured themselves and others... some of them were murderers.

    One patient, who was built like the Incredible Hulk, was an easy going fellow, but he was a paranoid schizophrenic and easily triggered.

    One day, he showed up at the facility extremely agitated. He immediately focused his rage another male patient. Before you could bat an eyelash, he through a large table, nearly hitting the other patient in the head.

    What did the other staff members do? They ran, locked themselves in their offices, and called the police.

    What did I do? I distracted the angry patient by asking him if he'd like to walk with me to the store and get a soda - my treat. And just like that, the situation was over. If the cops had showed up, they would taken one look at him, and probably shot him.

  • ?Patty Kakes?

    I just don't feel safe calling the police about anything anymore

  • Judi Lauren

    You ain't never lie. My lawyer is my new best friend. Anytime I need help he gets a text first. He knows when I actually dial his number it is to retain. The last time I got pulled over by the police, he was already on the phone on bluetooth silently listening by the time the cop was at the window. He tells me only answer questions, not statements, and just look them dead in their face the entire time.

  • indano

    He's probably a Cluster A

  • MythCalledLove

    Even with mental illness the treatment is far from the answer. The care given is not the answer. Mental heath is a pill farm and the therapist are a joke. I know Community Service Board would give the patients the meds before the leave. If they take it who knows. That was a great way to get the meds to them. Many are not going to the pharmacy. You can't get help from something that is broken and nobody seems to get that. Some that hv a passion and really want to do the right think but sometimes they hit a brick wall and when you find those its like a diamond and the rest are CZ. It's easy to blame mental health. But just like being homeless its America that wants to brush it under the rug. Nothing breaks my heart more than to see those that fought for this country get no respect. You lay your life on the line fighting for a country that ain't got $h! for you. But hv the nerve to say support the troops yada yada. War is over and after all that " o.k let's get you that bus ticket home". I know way off topic but I had to get that out my system.

  • Banka

    Apples and Oranges !!

  • teather

    No brainer here.

  • YellowSauce

    911 is best NOT called AT ALL ... EVER
    If people don't know this by now ... well good luck

  • Shawty

    I'm NOT disputing that. I'm just saying the manual don't say that. The oath they take to protect and serves does not say we will protect and serve everyone but blacks. I think it's some inside ish going on? Yes I do...I'm just saying they not living up to the oath they swore too.