St. Louis police have released a graphic video showing the shooting by officers of a man reportedly armed with a knife. Kajieme Powell, 25, was killed Wednesday by two St Louis Metropolitan Police officers. St Louis Public Radio reports that Powell was suspected of shoplifting energy drinks and donuts from a convenience store. The shop owner, believing that Powell was carrying a weapon, contacted police.
The video, which was taken by a bystander, shows two officers pulling up to the sidewalk, where the video shows Powell walking up and down, with his right hand in the pocket of his sweatshirt.
Officers pull up in a squad car, exit and draw their weapons, and can be heard shouting indistinguishable instructions to Powell. Powell then walks towards the officers. It appears that he has a knife in his right hand, but his hand is not raised. He can be heard shouting “Shoot me! Shoot me!” He retreats and then walks towards officers again, who fire on him.
Powell was killed just four miles from Ferguson, Missouri, the scene of protracted protests and clashes between authorities and people protesting the shooting by police of Michael Brown, 18, who was shot to death by police 11 days ago.
A peaceful protest at the site of Powell's shooting dispersed at approximately 1am Wednesday.
The St. Louis Metropolitan police department seems to have released the video in an effort to address public skepticism and defuse anger before it built into the kind of confrontations that have occurred in Ferguson.
Transparency and openness builds the public's trust in their police department.
â€” St. Louis, MO Police (@SLMPD) August 20, 2014
New York magazine quoted local police chief Sam Dotson as saying, after the video's release: "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."
Some media outlets questioned whether the video supports the police department's version of events.
However, Alderman Antonio French, who has been active in the protests at Ferguson tweeted:
There can, should & WILL be hearings about whether STL police are trained to shoot to wound or kill, but this seems to be LEGALLY justified.
â€” Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 21, 2014
The video can be seen here. It has graphic content and may be upsetting to viewers.