Family seeks answers after police shoot loved one
NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) -- The family of an autistic man is demanding justice after their loved one was gunned down following a confrontation with police.
According to North Miami Beach Police, 56-year-old Ernest Vassell had a gun, which turned out to be a toy, but relatives are saying Vassell was an autistic man who would never arm himself with anything. "I just want the officer to basically get what he deserves," said the deceased's nephew, only identified as Leon. "He's my uncle ... We used to wake up and walk to church together every Sunday."
Leon spent Thursday afternoon going door-to-door with flyers asking neighbors who might have seen anything to contact the family. Originally, police said, Vassell had a gun. They later said it was a toy gun. "Everybody that knows Ernest says that's not true," said Claire Hardy, the sister of Vassell. "Nobody believes that Ernest had a gun ... even a toy gun. They said that Ernest would run from a gun if he'd see one. He wouldn't pick one up, so nobody believes it. It's not true."
Vassell's family are now hoping for some answers. "We already have over 20 witnesses saying that they didn't see him with any gun," Leon said.
Police, however, maintain that someone calling 911 said Vassell had a gun. When asked if they could show a photo of the gun, North Miami Beach Police released the following statement: "Releasing a photo of the replica firearm carried by Mr. Vassell is still being considered.
"I have to do everything for him," said Hardy. "I wash his clothes, I cook his food. I do everything for him, you know? I don't believe the police saying this guy had a gun. He's afraid of police. He's afraid of everything."
North Miami beach Police said they are hoping to release some type of picture of this toy gun Friday.
In the meantime, the family is holding a meeting at St. Mary's Missionary Baptist Church in North Miami Beach on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
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