Ernest Vassell, Autistic Man, Killed by North Miami Beach Police for Carrying Toy Gun

Last night, North Miami Beach police shot and killed Ernest Vassell after they thought he was violently brandishing a loaded gun. Turns out Vassell, who was autistic, was simply playing with a toy rifle.


Police were called to the scene yesterday after they received reports of a man carrying a rifle and threatening a dog. Officers arrive at Northeast 155th Terrace and 14th Avenue around 5:15 p.m.

They confronted 56-year-old Vassell, but he would not comply with their orders. So an officer shot.

"The units responded, and they saw the man with the rifle. There was an encounter between the gentleman and the police. Shots were fired, and as a result, the man with the rifle has died," North Miami Beach Police spokesman Warren Hardison told WSVN.

Vassell was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital and later declared dead.

"They murdered him in cold blood for a toy gun!" Vassell's older sister Claire Harding told CBS News. "That's no reason for you to kill somebody!

"They could tell him to drop the gun. They say they told him to drop it and he raised his hand," she continued. "He probably raised his hand to hand them the gun, because he is afraid of police."

As part of standard procedure, the officer who fired the shot will be put on paid administrative leave while the department investigates the shooting.

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