After mistaking the pipe for a gun, police shot and killed Vassell in Brooklyn when the man "took a two-handed shooting stance" and pointed in officers' direction, according to NBC.
Police later said the instrument was actually a metal pipe with a knob on it.
"This was not an EDP (emotionally disturbed person) call. this was a call of a man pointing what 911 callers felt was a gun at people on the street", NYPD Chief Terence Monahan told NBC.
After the speakers finished on Thursday, protesters advanced down Utica Avenue towards NYPD's 71st Precinct on Empire Boulevard, the precinct that has jurisdiction over the area of Brooklyn where Vassell was shot. Excerpts from the transcripts of 911 calls released by the New York City Police Department show that several callers reported a man with a "gun". The younger Vassell's mental disability was allegedly well known by both his neighbors and local police, according to the Times report.
"They need to lose their jobs and they need to be put in jail - the same as if someone kills a cop", Ramel Johnson, 38, told The Guardian.
The four officers who fired a total of 10 rounds are of various races and ethnicities: one black, two white and one Indian or South Asian, officials said, adding that they averaged about six years in uniform.
NY mayor Bill de Blasio said the incident was "a tragedy by any measure", and that Mr Vassell had "a profound mental health problem".
"Police had a choice".
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Neighbors and friends of Mr. Vassell said he often picked items out of the trash as a hobby and would point them at people as a joke. They should not train them to kill.
"What we have seen from the images that are publicly available, people in the community thought he had a weapon and was aiming it at residents", the mayor said. After the shooting, the officers can be heard frantically calling for dispatchers to send an ambulance. "We should demand sound policing, quality police work - the best training, decision making, and accountability from the men and women serving as police officers".
At a vigil Thursday night, Vassell's mother, Lorna, said her son "came from a good home" and that he was not homeless. "They should train them to protect life, to save life", Eric Vassell told WABC-TV.
"I said, 'Is that Saheed?'" Biggs said.
"The New York's Attorney General Office has opened an investigation into Vassell's death".
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he had messaged Schneiderman Thursday morning, thanking him for "opening an investigation into the police shooting of Saheed Vassell in Crown Heights".
Gregg Re is an editor for Fox News.