The family of Saheed Vassell, a man killed by the NYPD in 2018, is pleading with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin to remove footage of Vassell's final moments from Zeldin's first major television advertisement. Vassell's family said the use of the video has caused his relatives “terrible pain and suffering.”

Vassell’s family has hired lawyers in recent weeks as it continues to press Zeldin to remove the ad, which the Republican congressman launched with a seven-figure buy in September and continues to host on his Facebook and Twitter pages. The release underscores Zeldin’s campaign strategy of painting New York as a crime-riddled state under his opponent Gov. Kathy Hochul.

In 30 seconds, Zeldin’s ad features more than a dozen rapid-fire clips of violent acts on the streets — shots fired, aggressive punches, and looting, among others — while screams can be heard in the background. The imagery is so violent that YouTube requires viewers to sign in to confirm their age before watching it.

Vassell appears at the 21-second mark, pointing an object in a passerby’s face as the camera quickly zooms in. At a quick glance, it appears to be a gun.

A narrator tells the audience it is “looking at actual crimes caught on camera in Kathy Hochul’s New York,” before telling people to “vote like your life depends on it — it just might.”

But in the case of Vassell, 34, he wasn’t holding a gun. It was 2018, three years before Hochul became governor (she had served as lieutenant governor then), and he was in the middle of a mental health crisis on the streets of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, wielding what turned out to be a metal piece from a gas tank. Within minutes, NYPD officers shot him at least five times, mistakenly believing he was brandishing a firearm.

Zeldin’s campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Zeldin’s critics have assailed the ad as dishonest and dehumanizing. The Vassell family’s attorneys likened it to a “Willy Horton-esque campaign attack ad.”

“Saheed was the victim here, but to Zeldin and his campaign, he was simply a Black man whose image could be manipulated to make people afraid,” M.K. Kaishian and J. Remy Green, the Vassell family’s attorneys, said in a statement on Tuesday. “But we won’t be silent.”

Vassell’s father Eric first called on Zeldin to take down the ad in late September, about a week after it first aired. Now, the family is hoping its lawyers can convince Zeldin to act.

“Not only should the ad be taken down immediately, including from Lee Zeldin’s Twitter page where it continues to be shared, but it never should have been aired, and the suffering already caused to our family cannot be undone,” the attorneys said in their statement. “This is wrong — and no other family should be forced to endure this pain again.”