Kajieme Powell was a mentally disturbed man who was shot dead on the streets of St Louis by police on August 19, 2014, just four miles from the place in Ferguson where Michael Brown had been killed just 10 days earlier. Powell was reportedly carrying a knife and acting erratically and talking to himself and had taken some items from a store without paying for them. Here is what St. Louis police chief’s version of what happened.
Two arriving officers ordered Powell to get down, but he became more agitated and walked toward them, reaching for his waistband. Witnesses told police the man was yelling, “Shoot me, kill me now,” during the encounter, Dotson said.
The officers drew their weapons and ordered Powell to stop. He did stop, but then pulled out a knife and came at the officers, gripping and holding it high, Dotson said. They ordered him to stop and drop the knife. When he got within 2 or 3 feet of the officers, they fired, killing Powell.
“This is a lethal range for a knife,” Dotson said.
But as is often the case these days in public places, someone was recording the events and what the video shows is different. Meanwhile a suppressed dash cam video that was later released resulted in the exoneration of a young black man and the indictment of two police officers and a guilty plea by a third in the beating of the man, further illustrating the benefits of requiring police to wear video cameras at all times that send images to be stored in the cloud. [WARNING: The first link contains the video that shows the shooting of Powell and is disturbing and the second link sows the beating.]
Powell was clearly more than 3 feet away and he did not have his hands high but rather had them at his sides when he was hit with a barrage of nine bullets.
No doubt police have stressful jobs. No doubt they fear for their own lives. But Powell was not an immediate threat to anyone but possibly the police who arrived there. Have they no way of dealing with a clearly disturbed man with a knife other than shooting him multiple times? Recall the vastly different reaction of police who talked down another mentally disturbed man who actually threated them with a rifle. Unlike Powell, that man was white.
Meanwhile PZ Myers links to another story where the police in Ferguson showed utter contempt for a makeshift memorial that had been created at the site of the Brown shooting.