A new video released by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has raised new questions about the deadly force used by two officers against a 25-year-old African-American male on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis. The police released the video with the belief that it would exculpate the officers involved in the shooting, but some are now asking whether the use of deadly force was really necessary given the circumstances.
The incident began when a convenience store owner called 911 when he suspected that an African-American male, Kejieme Powell, stole drinks and donuts from his store. According to the Huffington Post, another woman then called to report that Powell was “acting erratically and had a knife in his pocket.”
As seen in the video above (warning graphic content) which was taken via cell phone from a bystander, Powell does appear agitated before the police arrive. Things quickly escalate as soon as the two officers arrive on the scene. Both of the police officers get out of their vehicle and point their guns at Powell. Powell then responds by growing more upset and charging at the officers with a knife. Powell is also shouting at the officers to shoot him. Both officers then open fire with a barrage of bullets, killing Powell.
The bystanders immediately question why the officers used deadly force against Powell.
To the police the video shows Powell charging at officer with a deadly weapon, the knife, and therefore both officers were justified in using deadly force to eliminate the threat to themselves. The officers repeatedly tell Powell to drop his weapon and he ignores this request. The first shot was fired after Brown had already begun charging at the officers.
However, others have questioned why the officers got out of their car and immediately pointed their weapons at Powell, which may have served to escalate the situation. Alternatives to deadly force might have included the officers retreating back in their car, or the use of non-lethal force such as a taser or a baton.
Defenders of the police counter that it is unjust to judge their actions after the fact, when the officers only had seconds to react to a man charging them with a knife.
If nothing else the story illustrates the divide between police and many citizens even when both sides view the same video which clearly illustrates the circumstances involved in a deadly police shooting.