St Louis police have released video and audio recordings of the shooting on Tuesday of Kajieme Powell, a 25-year-old man described as “behaving erratically” and carrying a knife when officers arrived on the scene. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/21/police-release-video-of-kajieme-powell-shooting-in-st-louis/print
One video, taken by a witness with a phone camera, shows officers opening fire repeatedly within 15 seconds of arriving at the scene. Twelve shots are fired in rapid succession. The fatal encounter added to tensions between St Louis police and the black community, coming amid continuing protests in the locality of Ferguson after police shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.
Powell is seen pacing up and down the sidewalk outside a store from which he is alleged to have stolen soft drinks and donuts. Two cans are sitting next to the road as the man paces with his right hand in his sweatshirt. He does not interfere with passersby.
The police car draws up and parks partly on the sidewalk and two officers emerge shouting at Powell to get down. The police say that he was carrying a knife which was recovered at the scene. He can be seen holding an object in the video.
Powell turns away and steps up on to a raised carpark. He then turns to face the officers and takes a step. Both policemen then open fire, shooting repeatedly at the man who falls on to the sidewalk.
The police said the shop owner called the emergency services because he believed that Powell was carrying a weapon.
The video will reinforce concerns raised by witnesses who asked why the police officers did not use Tasers or shoot Powell to wound rather than kill. Sam Dotson, the St Louis police chief, said the officers may not have been able to Taser Powell because of his sweatshirt. In the video the sweatshirt appears to be open.
On Tuesday a witness to the shooting, Doris Davis, said she did not believe the police needed to kill Powell. “I think it was excessive. People said he had a knife but if he had a knife they could have shot him in the foot. Or Tasered him. They didn’t have to kill him,” she said. “I couldn’t believe my eyes, I have seen anything like that. I’ve never seen anyone get shot.”
The death of Powell took place amid extreme tension and unrest in Ferguson over Michael Brown’s death. Authorities undertook to release the recordings of the Powell case quickly, hoping to make the circumstances clear and minimise its potential as a further catalyst for rioting and confrontation between crowds and police.
Chief Sam Dotson of the St Louis police said: “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.”