Breaking: St. Louis Police Shoot Knife-Wielding Man.

msnbc

St. Louis Police shot and killed a man who had robbed a convenience store and refused to drop the knife he pulled from his waistband when confronted by police. (photo from MSNBC)

Things are a bit touchy in Missouri these days if you haven’t heard. I will refrain from taking a position on the Ferguson shooting itself. Neither side’s initial story painted anything remotely resembling a coherent picture, though the needle seems to be moving in the direction of ambiguous if not justified. I wasn’t there, and justice does not move at the speed of Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackass. If there is a case to be made against the officer, then he deserves a trial and not mob justice.

I have do have strong opinions on the militarization of police in this country. I also believe that the Ferguson PD’s ham-handed response has turned the situation into an unmitigated pooch-screw. I welcome your thoughts and opinions on that issue in the comments. I am sort of throwing this out as an “open-thread” on the whole Ferguson situation.

That leads me to today’s shooting. I credit the St. Louis Chief holding an immediate press conference and being extremely forthcoming from the beginning. It looks like there is no strong link between today’s shooting and the protests in Ferguson. In fact, it may even have been a “Suicide by Cop”…

From MSNBC.com:

“According to police, the unidentified male initially entered a convenience store carrying two energy drinks. After exiting, he re-entered and allegedly took a package of pastries without paying for them. When he was confronted by the store’s owner he tossed the food into the street and began to walk around “erratically”, according to St. Louis police. Another business owner contacted authorities and when officers arrived the man allegedly pulled a knife out of his waste-band in a threatening manner, and told police, “Shoot me now, kill me now, shoot me.”

The suspect reportedly did not respond to verbal commands from officers to stop and was fired upon. According to authorities, police did not have their guns drawn until the suspect refused to drop his weapon.”

Two things that make this look like it won’t add fuel to the Ferguson fire. First, the whole scene was actually witnessed by a local alderwoman, who is not at this point agitating because the deceased clearly was brandishing a weapon at police (Update:the video released by the StLPD shows the knife’s position to be ambiguous – more detail in the comments). More importantly, the Chief actually walked among the people following his press conference and took questions from the crowd, some of whom were becoming agitated. It seemed to help.

Kudos to Chief Dotson for getting out ahead of a volatile situation.

comments

  1. Senna Marpat says:

    It certainly seems like the police in Ferguson need better PR training. When you talk to the press, you wait a sec to think about what you’re saying to avoid being baited. People expect news to move at the speed of stupid and the real world doesn’t work that way. From what we’ve been reading, that town may have had major issues with police interactions to begin with. This sure isn’t helping.

    1. Roger says:

      Not just the town. The whole class-community has had pretty shitty dealings with police.

  2. I_Like_Pie says:

    This is the way it is in Urban america now. Has been for years. The whole St.Louis thing is just the straw that broke the camel’s back for many communities.

    People are murdered here in the ghettos of Chattanooga. There may be 2-3 witnesses to the whole thing, but the distrust of the police is so great that nobody will cooperate. Happens every week.

  3. Senna Marpat says:

    I can’t blame them. My city is generally considered fairly upstanding and our last police chief is in federal prison, with quite a few incidents of cops shooting the wrong people and getting the wrong house on no-knock warrants just in the last year. Distrust of police and politicians is only reasonable.

  4. Major_Northeast_City says:

    The complete video of the shooting was released by the St. Louis Police today….. clearly….. the Man that those two cops murdered had BOTH his hands at his sides, he did not “lunge” at them, nor did he “attack” them at the moment they chose to shoot him dead.
    Don’t they issue these cops stun guns?
    Again….. view the video and decide for yourself…. both his hands were at his sides.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/20/kajieme-powell-shooting_n_5696546.html

    1. There were two discrepancies I saw from the video (I actually watched it this afternoon, linked from Reason.com) and the press conference. First, it did seem that they didn’t waste any time drawing their weapons. However, they were dispatched to a call where the knife had been reported, so I don’t see this as a particular breach of protocol.

      The second, has to do with the knife and posture of the perpetrator/victim. You clearly hear the cops say “Drop the knife” so it is plausible that they saw one. The presser certainly made it seem that it was more clearly visible and raised. But I do not see anything that says he could not have had a hand on his knife. You can also hear the deceased say “shoot me” (obviously not a legal “permission”), but validates the erratic behavior that was reported. One of the 911 calls was actually from the Alderwoman who was an eyewitness, and while she is agitating about the Ferguson case, I have not heard her accuse the police of impropriety in this one.

      When the officers finally shot, the deceased had closed to about 3-4 feet despite their warnings. He was at an elevated position atop the wall. It would have taken a fraction of a second for him to lunge down onto the passenger seat cop. He could easily have flung himself at the officer and with the help of gravity tackled him _while holding a knife_ (it was witnessed and recovered at the scene even if it is not clearly visible in the video).

      Unlike in Ferguson, the St. Louis PD is making every attempt to be transparent and get out in front of a bad situation. They made no attempt to suppress the video. To the extent that the video has contradictions, given the posture/behavior of the StLPD compared to that of the Ferguson PD, I am at least receptive to the possibility that it is a case of second hand information related to the Chief and incorrectly interpreted and passed on.

      There are also opportunities to Monday Morning QB. If I were to encounter that situation I would likely have attempted to put more of the car between me and the aggressor. Given that the deceased was not directly threatening any member of the public, the officers might have been able to try to maintain a safer distance and attempted to use a taser. But I am not in a situation where I am relying on my training to make a split second decision.

      I appreciate your input. You wrote a lengthy and thoughtful comment and for that I thank you. I disagree with your assessment/interpretation, but the civil discourse is welcome and far too rare in this polarized atmosphere.

      BTW: Reason has a much more complete version of the video than HuffPo.
      http://reason.com/blog/2014/08/20/was-kajieme-powell-really-holding-high-a

      -HCA

      1. Major_Northeast_City says:

        >>”You can also hear the deceased say “shoot me” (obviously not a legal “permission”)”<<

        100% correct: not a legal “permission”.

  5. What is ironic is that our parent blog TTAG is frequently labeled as being anti-cop. I don’t think this is true any more than I believe we are being overly deferential.

    If one wanted to make a “How To Get Yourself Shot by Police” video, the guys family would be entitled to royalty money. What rational human being with a knife does not back off two cops with guns drawn. What rational person would behave this way with a single non-cop with a gun?

    When, despite repeated warnings, the deceased crossed the 4′ mark he became an imminent threat to the cops. The fact he was acting completely irrationally I think actually bolsters the police case.

  6. Senna Marpat says:

    I think Farago is the only anti-cop component of TTAG’s major contributors, but that’s a separate conversation.

    I’ll second the question of “why weren’t projectile non-lethal weapons attempted?”. Tasers don’t always work for various reasons, but when you are being backed up by a partner with their gun out, it should be tried. Also, the public tends to deeply underestimate what knives are capable of. I’ve known plenty of people that think if someone has a firearm, they are immune to knives, axes, swords, bows, ballistas, and anything else not a modern gun. Inside of six feet, the knife is often more dangerous, but people don’t like to think about such things. Expect a public backlash by some because of that.

    1. I will take a ballista over anything under .40cal

      1. Duncan Idaho says:

        Nothing like the comforting heft of BC-era torsion weaponry in the cradle of your arms.

        1. not to useful for melee combat though…

  7. Senna Marpat says:

    Got the video to run. The guy was definitely walking aggressively toward the cops and ignoring orders. He was either suicidal or stupid. If he was trying to provoke without major consequences (daring them on camera because of Ferguson), he screwed up big time. The passenger officer might have been able to pull back and maintain distance long enough to pull a taser, but unless he had it out in the car, he probably didn’t have enough time. Not having their closeness and perspective, I can’t say what I’d have done in what timeframe. The deceased was moving fast enough that firing a taser, waiting for it to fail, assessing, and THEN shooting would have taken a long time.

  8. OH dear God. Rachael Maddow just reiterated my point about the Chief giving the Press Conference 90 minutes later and releasing the video being instrumental in not escalating the situation.

    I feel a great disturbance in the Force.

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Breaking: St. Louis Police Shoot Knife-Wielding Man.

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