What Jamaal Vassell describes as one of the most challenging days of his life actually began at night, in 2010. An outgoing and popular presence at his neighborhood community center, Vassell, then 17, had traveled from his home in Canarsie, Brooklyn, to neighboring Brownsville to play basketball by himself at his favorite court. After making a few shots, a few younger boys, around 14 years old, joined in. They were all playing ball together until three New York City Police Department officers stopped them.
Vassell was used to it. He had already been stopped twice by NYPD officers—once after popping into a convenience store after school and another time as he walked home from a local recreation center one night.