St. Louis police have released eyewitness video of the fatal shooting of Kajieme Powell, which took place on Tuesday. You can watch the video above. Two cops shot Kajieme Powell multiple times, killing him. The shooting took place very close to where Michael Brown was killed. Here’s what you need to know about Powell.
1. The Kajieme Powell Shooting Took Place Within a 4-Mile Radius of Where Michael Brown Was Shot
"There has to have been a way for the police to have protected Kajieme Powell rather than killed him." Indeed, @ezraklein. Perfectly put.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) August 21, 2014
Newsweek notes that Kajieme Powell was shot within a four-mile radius of which Michael Brown was killed about two weeks ago, sparking further outcry from the community. Newsweek has some additional info about the circumstances surrounding Powell’s death, which took place just after Powell shoplifted a handful of items.
“Police said Powell held a knife in his hand, though it is unclear from the video if Powell actually brandished the knife at the officers. The owner of the convenience store from which Powell allegedly shoplifted told police he had a weapon, a claim corroborated by the owner of a nearby barber shop who called 911 about Powell, according to 911 calls obtained by St. Louis Public Radio.
Powell approached them, shouting, ‘Shoot me! Shoot me, already!’ As Powell continued to approach them, the officers shot and killed him.”
A clear picture of the knife has not been released, but it is believed to have been a steak knife. It is hard to count the number of shots in the video. Various media outlets have reported that he was shot between eight and 12 times. The Riverfront Times has a witness who pegs the number of shots at around 10:
“‘Both officers fired at least five shots from their weapons,’ said Robert Addison, who says he witnessed the killing. ‘I thought it was excessive. Shooting him multiple times like that? He was going down from the one shot. They opened up on him.'”
St. Louis’ KMOV reports that the shoplifting haul Kajieme Powell made off with just prior to his death was pretty meager: two energy drinks and a pastry (or possibly a donut, based on a report from St. Louis Public Radio). The store owner reportedly followed Powell out of the store, and then the police were dispatched to the area.
2. The Police Opened Fire on Powell 20 Seconds After Arriving on the Scene
— The Baxter Bean (@TheBaxterBean) August 21, 2014
According to multiple reports, the police opened fire on Kajieme Powell mere seconds after they arrived on scene. Newsweek says the police opened fire 20 seconds after arriving, though the Guardian reported it was more like 15 seconds.
The Huffington Post adds that the footage of the shooting seems to contradict earlier police reports about the incident:
“St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Tuesday that both of the officers opened fire on Powell when he came within a three or four feet of them holding a knife ‘in an overhand grip.’
But the newly released cell phone footage undermines the statement, showing Powell approaching the cops, but not coming as close as was reported, with his hands at his side. The officers began shooting within 15 seconds of their arrival, hitting Powell with a barrage of bullets.”
3. Kajieme Powell Has Been Referred to as ‘Mentally Disturbed’
— Shannon Cunningham (@dhammicmarxist) August 20, 2014
The Atlantic‘s coverage of the shooting referred to Powell as “mentally disturbed.” However, some people are questioning whether Powell really was mentally ill or mentally disturbed. The report above only refers to Powell as “acting erratically.” It is not clear if Powell had previously been diagnosed with any mental problems by a medical professional. The Riverfront Times cites witnesses to the shooting who claim that Powell had “mental-health problems.”
Was #KajiemePowell "mentally ill" or was he just rightfully pissed off about racism in his community?If he was "ill" how does it make it ok?
— Elisa (@elisafayevila) August 21, 2014
St. Louis’ Fox 2 has a transcript of a 911 call made by a witness to the shooting. The woman in question runs a barber shop in the area, and is also an alderwoman:
“Alderwoman: He`s in front of my barber shop. He just seems very upset. I don`t know what he`s getting ready to do. I don`t know if the person in the store called but I`m calling because I done locked my door. I don`t want this guy to come in here. He`s got a knife in his hand.”
4. Chief Sam Dotson Has Pledged Transparency
Watch Dotson get grilled in the video above.
According to St. Louis Public Radio, Chief Sam Dotson has pledged that the investigation into Powell’s death will be transparent. Dotson told reporters:
“I don’t think any of us can deny that the tension not only in St. Louis but around the county and the world because of the activities in Ferguson over the last 10 or 12 days certainly has led to us making sure that we got this right and answered as many questions as we could as quickly as we can.”
You can listen to two of the 911 calls made just prior to the Powell shooting below.
The Guardian adds that US Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson and met with Michael Brown’s family. It is not clear if Holder plans a similar meeting with Powell’s family.
5. The Kajieme Powell Shooting ‘Divides Americans’
The Atlantic recently published an article entitled “The Killing of Kajieme Powell and How It Divides Americans.” The article referred to Powell as “mentally disturbed,” and argues that the police may have overreacted to Powell’s knife. The article notes that police training videos, such as the one above, show just how dangerous a person with a knife can be.
The Atlantic includes a long excerpt from Vox‘s Ezra Klein, who wrote an article entitled “Did the St. Louis police have to shoot Kajieme Powell?” The article talks candidly about how the police reacted to the shooting:
“The events on the video happen quickly, but they also happen slowly. Powell does not move like a man who poses a threat. There is no evidence that anyone felt threatened before the police arrived. Even when he advances on police, he walks, rather than runs. He swings his arms normally, rather than entering into a fighting stance.
Powell looks sick more than he looks dangerous. But the police draw their weapons as soon as they exit their car. They begin yelling at him to stop. And when they begin shooting, they shoot to kill — even continuing to shoot when Powell is motionless on the ground. There is no warning shot, even. It does not seem like it should be so easy to take a life.”