St. Louis police Wednesday released a video of two officers shooting and killing Kajieme Powell, a 25-year-old African American man, and while police called the video “exculpatory,” others who have viewed the video say it directly contradicts the police account of the shooting.
Two St. Louis cops shot Powell on Thursday fewer than 20 seconds after arriving at the scene. Powell, who in the video appears mentally unstable, had walked out of a nearby convenience store with two cans of soft drinks, refusing to pay. He then went back into the store and grabbed a doughnut, or bag of doughnuts, also without paying.
After the store clerk followed him out, Powell set the two soft drink cans down on a curb and began pacing aimlessly until a police cruiser showed up.
What happened next can be seen clearly in the video, but those images are at odds with the account initially given by St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson.
The video was shot by a bystander with a cell phone who followed Powell, whom he describes in the video as “crazy,” out of the store, apparently hoping to capture Powell doing something else outrageous.
The uncensored cell phone video is viewable below, but be warned — at about the 1:40 mark, the video shows Kajieme Powell being shot and killed, which will be highly disturbing to most viewers. Explicit profanity can also be heard throughout the recording.
While witnesses and police agree — and the video appears to confirm — Powell was acting strangely and was seemingly suffering from some sort of mental disturbance. Police and witness accounts also agree that Powell was carrying a knife. Dotson described it as a “steak knife.”
No knife can be seen in the video, but due to the distance from which the video was shot, there is no way to know whether Powell was holding a knife or not simply from the video evidence, though the officers can be heard commanding Powell, “Drop the knife!”
Powell yelled “Shoot me! Shoot me now!” at the officers, who quickly drew their guns after exiting their vehicle. Powell can be heard yelling those words in the video.
Where the video and Dotson’s account diverge is at the point when police arrive, in response to a 911 call from the owner of the store victimized by Powell’s brazen and bizarre attempt at petty shoplifting.
According to Dotson, as reported by The St. Louis Post Dispatch, Powell charged the officers with the knife held high in “an overhand grip,” as if ready to stab to two cops. Dotson said that Powell advanced to within “two or three feet” of the officers, adding, “that’s lethal range for a knife.”
But the video shows something entirely different.
Powell appears to be several yards away from the officers with his hands at his side when the officers gun him down, only about 20 seconds after pulling up to the scene. Powell is alone, a safe distance from any bystander, so he does not appear to pose a threat to the public.
Nine shots can be heard on the video. Dotson said the two cops fired 12 shots. After Kajieme Powell falls down, fatally wounded, the officers — seeming gratuitously — roll his lifeless body over and handcuff Powell.
About 200 protesters gathered at the Kajieme Powell scene of the shooting Wednesday, which is only about four miles from where unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer on August 9 — and about to miles from the epicenter of the violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, that have continued nightly since the Brown shooting.