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Cognitively Challenged Miami Man Fatally Shot While Brandishing Toy Rifle

Posted Sep 01 2011 12:00am

Ernest Vassell Managing Editor's Note: Here's a tragedy straight from the AofA "Nightmare" files. Ernest Vassell was fatally shot by police who assumed the rifle he was brandishing was real, and not a toy.  Who (if anyone) allowed an adult with a disability to carry a toy rifle around a neighborhood in 2011? It was a recipe for disaster.  Our condolences to the family. And to the officer who fired the shot.  From Fox News . Feel free to pop over to Fox to add a comment. The story is on every major news outlet as well. Note some reports (like the one below) say Mr. Vassell had autism, another report says he suffered brain injury in a fall as a child.

Family Says Autistic Man With Toy Gun Shot, Killed by Florida Police

Published September 01, 2011

NORTH MIAMI BEACH –  A man whose family said he was autistic was killed by police in North Miami Beach after pointing a real-looking toy gun at an officer, police said Thursday.

Police officers responded to 911 calls about a man seen walking around the neighborhood Wednesday afternoon with a rifle, North Miami Beach Police Director Thomas Carney said.

Officers gave commands for the man to drop the weapon, but he refused and pointed it at an officer, Carney said.

The man identified as Ernest Vassell, 57, was carrying a realistic toy that could be confused with a rifle or shotgun, police said.

"It's very tragic," Carney said. "People don't understand that police officers are going to treat you like that's a real gun until we determine differently. They're not going to take any chances."

The victim's sister said Vassell was autistic and had mental challenges.

"Ernest did not deserve to die like this. Everyone is still in shock and disbelief," Marva Vassell-Gordon said.

His neighbors said it was obvious that Ernest Vassell had a disability, and police should have known.

"It's so strange to me that I can see it, and then, the police didn't see it. Or they didn't look for it," said Conroy Anderson, a family friend.

Police were not immediately releasing further information on the shooting pending an investigation

Final Note: Bruce Springsteen wrote this haunting song about Amadou Diallo, a young man who was shot 41 times in The Bronx, NY when police thought the wallet he flashed was a gun. Police shootings often draw controversy.  "Is it a gun? Is it a knife? Is it a wallet? This is your life." I'm not comparing shooting an unarmed man with a man carrying what looked like a real rifle - it just seemed emotionally "right" to share this song. In both cases, an innocent man died. KS

Posted by Age of Autism at September 02, 2011 at 5:44 AM in Nightmares Permalink

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