The shooting – which followed a similar incident that sparked protests in Sacramento and which came on the 50th anniversary of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination – is the latest in a string of killings by police that have sparked a nationwide debate on violence by law enforcement.
The shooting occurred soon before 5pm Wednesday in Crown Heights, a predominantly black neighbourhood in the heart of Brooklyn.
Officers responded after receiving three 911 emergency calls saying a man was pointing an “object that appears to be a gun” at people on the street, said Terence Monahan, Chief of Department for the New York police.
Four officers fired 10 shots at the man, who was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The object the man was holding was not a gun, but rather “a pipe with some sort of knob on the end of it,” Monahan said.
Soon after the shooting, dozens of people gathered at the scene, with many shouting and denouncing the conduct of the police, according to footage broadcast live on Facebook.
According to media reports, the victim of the shooting was known in the neighbourhood and was mentally ill but not violent.
Andre Wilson, 38, told the New York Daily News that he had known the victim for 20 years, describing him as a quirky neighbourhood character.
“All he did was just walk around the neighbourhood,” he said.
“He speaks to himself, usually he has an orange Bible or a rosary in his hand. He never had a problem with anyone.”
The shooting came less than three weeks after police in the city of Sacramento fired 20 rounds at 22-year-old Stephon Clark, fearing he was carrying a weapon.
Clark, who was killed, was actually holding an iPhone.
Anger over the March 18 shooting erupted into days of protest in the streets of downtown Sacramento, with marchers blocking traffic and clashing with police in riot gear.//AFP