St Louis police have released audio and video footage surrounding the shooting of Kajieme Powell, who was shot by two officers on Tuesday 19 August.
Authorities say they want to release as much information as possible in the wake of the tension and disturbances following the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer two weeks earlier.
Powell, 25, was suspected of stealing a drink and a doughnut from a local store. Police received two phone calls – one from the convenience store owner, another from the manager of a nearby beauty salon.
A surveillance video shows a young man entering a store, walking to the cooler, removing goods and exiting. He is shown again pacing up and down outside the shop.
He enters the store for a second time, takes a doughnut and walks out without paying.
In an audio clip, beauty salon owner Dionne Flowers tells an emergency call responder that Powell is walking back and forth in front of her shop and he seems very upset. Flowers says “he’s got a knife in his pocket … in his right pocket and he must be threatening the store owner”.
A mobile phone video shows an agitated Powell walking up and down the street. The police arrive minutes later and order Powell to drop his knife several times. Powell replies: “Shoot me. Shoot me.”
When he ignores calls to drop the knife the officers reply with 12 shots.
Police chief Sam Dotson confirmed that Powell was carrying what resembled a steak knife. When asked why the officers did not shoot the youth in the foot he replied that these were “life and death situations”.
“Officers are trained to protect themselves when aggressors come at them, to use the least amount of force necessary to overcome the resistance and to keep themselves safe. The officers were confronted with a gentleman with a knife within three to four feet – which is a lethal range for a knife – and they used deadly force because deadly force was being presented to them,” he said.
“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,” Dotson added.
The St Louis Metropolitan Police Department says it has released the 911 calls, dispatch audio and a mobile phone video taken by a witness to enable complete transparency.
Video footage of the shooting, which is extremely graphic, can be seen here.