A disturbing cellphone video of a St. Louis police shooting has sparked some concern as protests in nearby Ferguson over the controversial killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown entered an 11th day.
The video of the Tuesday killing, released by the St. Louis Police Department on Wednesday, shows a man in a blue jacket acting erratically and cursing at pedestrians as he paces around a pair of soda cans.
The narrator of the video [warning: disturbing content and profanity] suggests the man stole the drinks from a nearby convenience store. Police arrive on scene a short time later.
The man, who has been identified as 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, immediately turns to the two officers, producing an object and marching toward them as they repeatedly order him to remove his hands from his pocket and “drop the knife.”
“Shoot me! Shoot me!” Powell can be heard screaming in the video. “Shoot me now....”
Powell continues to advance on the officers, ignoring their commands to stop.
Seconds later, police open fire and Powell goes down. At least 10 shots can be heard.
Onlookers appear stunned and angry.
“Oh, here we go again,” the narrator of the video says. “They just killed this man.”
After the shooting, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Powell had advanced toward the officers with a knife held overhead in a “threatening manner.” The video is shot from too far away to tell whether that is accurate.
Both officers have been placed on administrative leave, according to Dotson, who seemed to suggest their actions were justified.
“If a person is charging you with a knife and they’re within 3 or 4 feet, that’s a lethal range for a knife,” he said Tuesday during a news conference.
Dotson also said witnesses had told police they believed Powell was trying to commit “suicide by cop.”
With the shooting taking place just a few miles from Ferguson, Mo. -- where Brown’s Aug. 9 death has sparked a series of angry clashes between police and protesters and drawn national attention to what many consider a racially motivated shooting -- some have expressed concern that St. Louis could experience civil unrest.
Dotson downplayed those concerns on Tuesday.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has reached out to black community leaders and the local chapter of the NAACP. Slay also met with Powell’s grandmother and offered his condolences, the mayor said on Twitter on Wednesday.
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been one of the most visible faces of the protests in Ferguson, has said the St. Louis officers’ actions may have been justified. He warned residents not to link Powell’s killing to Brown’s.
“There’s a difference between an armed man yelling, ‘Kill me, Kill me,’ and an unarmed teenager reportedly with his hands up in the air,” French wrote on Twitter.
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