Kajieme Powell, 25, was described as “behaving erratically” and carrying a knife Tuesday when officers arrived at a St. Louis sidewalk where he stood after allegedly stealing two cans of soda from a nearby store. A bystander’s video seems to show police officers firing 12 shots in rapid succession as Powell slumps to the ground.

Occurring as it did amid ongoing protests in nearby Ferguson after police shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, the fatal encounter increased and made visible existing tensions between St. Louis police and the black community.

The video appears to show Powell repeatedly shouting “Shoot me!” at the officers as he moves toward them after they step out of their car. Guardian reporter Chris McGreal in St. Louis narrated the events as follows:

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.

Police said the shop owner called law enforcement because he believed Powell was carrying a weapon.

McGreal quoted a witness to the shooting, Doris Davis, as describing Powell’s death as unnecessary. “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 haven’t seen anything like that. I’ve never seen anyone get shot.”

Graphic footage of the encounter posted on YouTube on Wednesday is viewable below.


— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

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