Friday, August 22, 2014

The Other Police Killing In St. Louis

Now wait. This is just wrong. This is so wrong, as wrong in its own way as the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson just down the road on August 9. As wrong as the police killing of James Boyd in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains on March 16. As wrong as... well, we could go on. And on. And on. There are hundreds of these police killings. How many hundreds, nobody knows because there are no national statistics on police killings. But the vast majority are deemed justified and the book is closed on them, whether or not there is outrage and protest as there's been in Ferguson this Blood Summer, but not -- not yet -- in St. Louis where Kajieme Powell was shot down without a qualm by two young St. Louis police officers in front of stunned onlookers and a cameraman.

Let's watch (I know it's awful, as awful in its own way as the Albuquerque police murder of James Boyd. But it should be seen in order to comprehend just how cold-blooded the officers in this case were -- as they were in the Boyd case, though they waited longer before killing Boyd, hours rather than seconds...)

The officers, two young men, one in his twenties, the other 31, both with limited experience on the force, and with back up on the way, drive up, get out of their car and confront Powell with guns drawn, issuing commands, demanding he drop the knife he's said to be holding (in an "overhand grip" according to police, but the video shows that's not true), and when Powell doesn't do as he is commanded within seconds, they fire 12 shots, most or all of which hit Powell, several shots fired after he's on the ground, and they roughly turn the near-dead body over and handcuff him as back up officers arrive, and the shocked and appalled onlookers are pushed back.

The St. Louis police chief calls this a good shoot.

The man, after all, asked the officers to shoot him. So they did. What's to worry? Why the fuss? The officers were simply doing the man a favor, and one less Negro will now be troubling the Good People of St. Louis. Job well done, amirite?

No. No, it's wrong on every level, and we have to recognize this and say it. It's WRONG.

The St. Louis police are busy patting themselves on the back for a "good shoot" and for their marvelous transparency  *they released the video, after all* in comparison to ham-handed TomFoolery and mystification by the Ferguson police in the matter of Michael Brown, where they didn't even take a report, the crumbs.

Because the StL police have been so up front about what happened, they say, there have been no disturbances in StL over this sad incident. That's because the people understand what happened and why, and they can see for themselves in this cellphone video that the StL police themselves released. So it's all good.


No. No it's not.

What we see in this video should shock our consciences to the core. It's a video of yet another summary execution in front of a number of witnesses. It's a video of police acting as judge and jury and executioner, again, as if it's perfectly normal for a police cruiser to arrive at a location, and within seconds shoot a man dead because... he doesn't do what he's told fast enough on the one hand -- though he is not threatening anyone -- and because he is in the way, black, and disposable on the other.

I first saw the video the day before yesterday shortly before I had to leave the house for a trip to Santa Fe, and I didn't see it again until yesterday. I'd heard about the shooting of course, and heard about the police chief's press conference and community meetings and so forth, and so I knew a bit about what the police and witnesses said had happened. I was alert to the fact that this incident seemed to be another summary execution on the streets and byways of the Good Ol' United States of America where this sort of thing is practically a daily occurrence.

I'm looking at it for a third time, and I'm more convinced than ever that police in America have become cowards hiding behind badges and guns and patrons who protect them, essentially no matter what they do (unless sex is involved), especially if what they do is to shoot down and beat down any potential threat to the highest of the mighty. Mentally disturbed individuals -- such as Mr. Powell appears to have been -- are particularly vulnerable to these cowards with guns and badges, most especially so if they're black and male.

There is apparently no greater threat to the realm and its masters than mentally disturbed black men.  So it would seem.

And 12 seconds after the police pull up on Kajieme Powell, they shoot him dead.

In the case of James Boyd, the 40 or so officers on scene waited 4 hours or more before killing him, but they decided that the matter would have to be resolved before dark, and as Boyd was surrendering, they shot him. Time was up.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis, the police didn't wait at all. Didn't even try to de-escalate. Nothing. A few barked commands, defiance but no threat from Powell, and bam. He's dead. Case closed.

Welcome to America in the 21st Century.

Unlike the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the police were up front about what a good shoot they thought this incident was, how Powell wanted to the shot and how the officers obliged him, and how in the end, it's just one of those things, you know? Go on about your business, there's nothing to be upset about.

But we should be upset, we should be outraged, we should be as horrified by this incident as we are with the shooting of Michael Brown and the hundreds of others killed every year by this country's police, killings that we should question regardless of whether the prosecutors or police do.

This war on the people has got to stop.


  1. I confess that I don't even see a knife at all, but maybe he was holding one down by his side? Or maybe the cops knew he had one, since he had just taken a few sodas from the store and the storeowners reported he had a knife? Dunno. I don't see a knife. (The guy taking the video is laughing at the beginning because this "crazy dude" had just walked out of the store with the sodas and then put them on the sidewalk like he was daring someone to touch his purloined drinks. You can see the soda cans on the sidewalk in the beginning of the video.)

    Nobody in the media is asking why the cops didn't try to talk to the guy first, or why, if they felt they just HAD to shoot, they didn't shoot him in the foot or leg. Or into the air to scare him. Actually, I don't even hear the cops say, "Drop your weapon" or the like, they just get out of the car with guns drawn.

    I don't think we are supposed to ask questions any more. They are just culling the herd, is all.

    1. I'm thinking the reason why Powell was shot almost instantly is because of who called the police and what they said. The fellow in the red hat is the proprietor of the store, Mohammed. He called first and apparently said that Powell had robbed the store at knife-point, though the surveillance video the police released showed Powell taking soda and donuts, but no knife.

      The owner of the business next door, alderwoman Dionne Flowers, also called 911 when she saw Powell outside "acting crazy" and she said he was armed with two knives, one in his pocket and one in his hand.

      That seemed to be enough to get the police there immediately-- I imagine because of who she is and the the amount of turmoil just down the road in Ferguson at the time.

      They shot him because he didn't obey. It's obvious from the video that he's no threat. That didn't matter under the circumstances.

      The police will say they couldn't take the chance. The situation was too risky.

      There was an absolute demand of obedience, and Powell defied it. Bam, 12 shots later he was dead.

  2. Coupla things: Having read a couple of other articles and the comment sections, it seems Powell did have a knife. It must have been some kind of small pocketknife (that he is holding in his pocket in the pictures before the cops show up?); so small that I cannot make it out at all and so small that it apparently fits in his fist inside his sweatshirt pocket.

    Are they actually asking him to put his hands up AFTER they shoot him dead??

    The people who knew him say Powell was harmless and mentally handicapped. You hear him saying, as he wanders around before the cops come, "I can't take this shit any more." Know what he is talking about? His mother had just died that morning. I don't know if she was his caretaker, but I'd guess she was.

    See at about the two-minute mark in this video interview:

    1. The claim has been made that it was a "steak knife" though no one has produced a picture of it or of a knife in Powell's hand. Witnesses say they saw him with a knife, so I'll take their word for it at this point.

      Yes, they do command Powell to put his hands up after he's on the ground, and he actually tries to do so. When I saw that, I lost it. He's been shot a dozen times, can still move, but not by much, and he's trying to put his hands up. He can't. Then he stops moving. The turn him over, roughly, and handcuff him.


      Mohammed goes over to them, obviously upset, and paces. I'm sure he's wondering WTF like everybody else. But he's one of the ones who called police, and I can't imagine he expected to see Powell shot, not over sodas and donuts, even if he did have a knife.

      Back up arrives within a minute and a half. I think they had to have been on their way when the first dispatch was made.

      "I can't take this shit any more," may be a reference to what happened to Mike Brown, accused of stealing cigarillos -- and getting shot dead in the street in front of witnesses. When Powell says "Shoot me! Shoot me now!" it seems to me that he is very conscious of Brown's fate and is daring police to do the same to him. I can't tell, but I don't think he expects them to shoot. But they do. Within seconds.

  3. what happened to teasers?

    In olden days in the movies a tough cop when approached by man with knife would subdue him with bully club ? Appropriate force in response to different threats has gone out the window.... they just shoot everybody.

    Even the Nazis went through more rationalizations and covert-obvious cover ups before they killed out right ....

    What is truly changed is the degree to which all authorities just want to justify all these killings and are now it seems a hair trigger away from beating all of "america" to death for daring to stand up to them.

    1. My sense is that under the circumstances, the cops were operating on a "threat to the realm" protocol. Any armed resistance to be immediately neutralized with lethal force.

      It took them 12 seconds after arriving to shoot Powell to death. That's all the compliance time they were going to allow him because they were scared shitless that the Negroes were rising and that they were under imminent threat, even though it was obvious to onlookers he posed no threat at all.

      All that mattered was that he was Negro, he had a knife and he disobeyed in an area of civil unrest.

      Police in Ferguson shot and wounded a man who they said they saw with a gun during the initial protests. That's the protocol. Any armed Negro you see, shoot 'em.

      That's what happened to Powell when he wouldn't obey.