On Tuesday, August 19, 25-year-old Kajieme Powell was shot and killed by two St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers, just miles away from where Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson on August 9. A disturbing video of the shooting, taken by an eyewitness, that was released yesterday contradicts the initial statement given by the St. Louis Police Chief after the shooting.
As Andres Jauregui of the Huffington Post reports reports, the initial statement was as follows:
In a statement delivered before a crowd near the scene of the shooting, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said that both officers opened fire on Powell after the suspect came within three or four feet of police while holding the knife in an “overhand grip.”
The video shows Powell is much further away then three feet and the object, believed to be a knife, that seems to be in his hand is by his side—not “in an ‘overhand grip.’”
But that’s not all. In his statement, Dotson claimed that, “when [the police officers] initially got out of the car, they did not have their weapons drawn. When the suspect displayed his knife, they drew their weapons.” In the video, both police officers have their guns drawn and aimed at Powell as they’re getting out of the car—before Powell seems to display any weapon.
Furthermore, the officers continued to fire after Powell was on the ground, with at least four additional shots. They seemed to have shot him about a dozen times in total. The video shows Powell pacing back and forth before the police show up, but he does not physically hurt anyone. Storeowners called the police on Powell after he allegedly stole snacks from the store.
Afterwards the shooting, witnesses are heard reacting on the video: “Oh my god. They just killed this man. He didn’t have a gun on him. Now they’re cuffing him. He’s already dead.” Another says, “Over two fucking sodas, man. They could’ve tased that man.”
According to New York Magazine, neighbors have described Powell, who’s heard on the video yelling “shoot me now” multiple times, as mentally ill. He. A 2012 investigation uncovered that approximately fifty percent of people killed by police have mental health issues. The Portland Press Herald states:
“In many cases, mentally ill people shot by police have threatened, injured or even killed others. Sometimes, they have threatened suicide or expressed a desire to be shot by the police. Frequently, the use of deadly force seems excessive, if not utterly unnecessary.”
Crisis training in how to deal with the mentally ill is lacking in police departments across the country; according to the 2012 investigation, “virtually all of the officers who pulled the trigger lacked training that might have prevented a tragedy.”