Police Abuse

Was Kajieme Powell Really Holding High a Knife When Shot to Death by Police?


After St. Louis police shot to death 25-year-old Kajieme Powell yesterday (as mentioned in Elizabeth Nolan Brown's post below)—and apparently for good measure cuffed his corpse, says an eyewitness at the scene of the video below around 2:45—St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told the press that he was a clear and present danger to the officers, having, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, "pulled out a knife and came at the officers, gripping and holding it high, Dotson said." The Huffington Post reported Dotson as saying the knife was in an "overhand grip."

This cell phone video—alas from pretty far away—does not look to me like Powell was raising his arms. Nor does it show any obvious sign that I can see of a knife at all, but I can't be sure of that. But the position of his arms seems clear enough to me when the shots that killed him begin, around 1:35 or so of the video.

The video. Yes, it's disturbing:

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  1. “and apparently for good measure cuffed his corpse”

    Wow. Is there a peak chutzpah?

    1. Well, you know the likes of Cyto and others here who take offense when I correctly observe that ALL THOSE WHO DON THE CLOWN COSTUMES OF CAESAR ARE, BY DEFINITION, FUCKING SCUM.

      1. I’m not offended, just bored.

        1. The Tone Police they are inside of my head.

  2. How about we let an investigation do it’s job rather than spewing speculation out?

    Sure, show the video, that’s fine. But if you’re only going to speculate on one piece of evidence, then you’re just cherry picking what you want. Let’s see all the evidence before we start pointing fingers.

    1. I’m finding that “let’s see all the evidence” is cop-lover code for, “I’ll defend the police to the death”

      1. It would be nice if law enforcement was usually so enthusiastic about ‘let’s see all the evidence first before commenting’ as they are when they are the suspects.

        1. Damn, it’s me, you, and sarcasmic all in agreement. Is it the Rapture already?

          1. If it is that’s concerning since I’m still here…

            1. He’ll change his mind once I chime in…….

      2. Pretty much anything said by the cop-lovers is code for “I’ll defend the police to the death”. If you can see that video and think “we just don’t really know what happened” then you might as well just get on your knees in front of the cops right now.

      3. I showed this to my wife and her first reaction was to say it’s just youtube, and it was likely fabricated.

        So at her request I googled the guy’s name, and sure ’nuff it was real.

        So she asks “What can you do about it?”


        Time to recite the Serenity Prayer.

        “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
        The courage to change the things I can,
        And the wisdom to know the difference.”

        Good advice. Even if you don’t believe in God (which I don’t).

        1. That’s Ayn Rand’s favorite prayer.

          1. Hah, I was thinking this. We probably read the same essay.

        2. SERENITY NOW

      4. I’m finding that “let’s see all the evidence” is cop-lover code for, “I’ll defend the police to the death”

        Or, because if we’re to be thoughtful and reasonable about it, we want to have all the facts in hand before declaring this a bad shoot. What if the guy really did just did rob a store, and when confronted by the police (and I most of us can agree that if we’re to have police, confronting suspected robbers is one of their legitimate functions), he advanced on them with a knife? If it had been the store owner who’d confronted the robber, and the robber then pulled a knife, who among us would bat an eye if store owner had then shot him?

        If on the other hand he was unarmed and was gunned down simply for being belligerent, then it would be my hope that the shooter spends the rest of his life in prison.

        1. Even if this guy did just rob a store and was acting beligerent, the police chief verified that all of his officers carry tasers. Why didn’t these two use that less-lethal method of subduing the sustpect rather than going straight to their pistols? It is their job to risk their own health to protect others in their jurisdiction, including suspects. And from the video we can see that when they shot him he was still at a distance where a taser would have been effective. Using the taser would have added minimal risk to the officers in exchange for almost certainly saving this man’s life. If they aren’t willing to make that “sacrifice” then they shouldn’t be in uniform.

      5. LibertyBot?

      6. How about “let’s see all the evidence” in a court of law?

    2. Yeah. Because video showing a guy meandering with his hands at his sides must be fabricated, because the cops said he rushed them while holding a knife up high.

      I can’t believe we’ve come to a point where video gets tossed out because it conflicts with the cops’ testimony.

    3. The “job” the soi-disant investigation does is to justify any actions the cop took and inevitably clear him or her of wrongdoing. Then nothing else happens.

      Funny that.

    4. Bullshit. His hands are CLEARLY at his side. The cops lied. Prosecute and FRY them.

    5. If the police reports that he had the knife in an “overhand grip” or that he was “holding it high,” you don’t need any more evidence that the cops filed a false report.

      1. Well they may have filed a *wrong* report, but false implies maliciousness. Without ruling that out, it’s reasonable to assume that their memories were not perfect of the event due to adrenaline. We’re all very prone to making up what we thought we saw, or we felt we saw, and remembering it as real.

        1. If only there was some way.. a technology maybe, that we could get around this problem.

          1. Some kind of way to record events faithfully and play them back later? Crazy talk.

            1. Problem?

              Cops have a propensity to prevaricate.

              Cops have a propensity to perjure.

              Problem solved.

        2. Wait, every cop drama and pretty much every trial I’ve seen indicates that cops are highly-trained professionals with perfect memories and Sherlockian reasoning skills. Have I been lied to all this time?

  3. Obey or die.

    1. It’s more like “bring a knife to a gunfight and die”, which somehow seems perfectly logical.

  4. Approach officers with a knife in your hand, ordered to stop, continue to approach, wonder how that will end…

    1. I didn’t see a knife, nor did I see him approaching the officers. Did you? All I saw was someone executed for failure to obey.

      1. He definitely was approaching the officers when he was shot. But as I posted below, the officers could have set up more safely when they exited their vehicle. If they already knew he had a knife from the call that dispatched them, they should have used their vehicle as an obstacle to prevent him from closing, thus buying them time. I don’t have any idea if this is in their training; it might even be counter to how they are trained.

        1. Also, they had tasers. Why didn’t at least one of them have his taser out?

          1. Because tasers are ineffective unless the electrodes actually touch the skin. The guy was wearing a jacket, which means at least two layers of clothes, making it less likely a taser of the type you fire, with darts and trailing wires, would penetrate far enough to actually touch skin.

            1. Then have one cop attempt to use the tasor, aiming at his chest since the jacket was not zipped or the legs, and the other keep his gun trained on the suspect. in case that didn’t work AND the suspect was rushing towards them with a knife.

          2. That’s a good question. It could have been useful for them to have a protocol of one taser/one gun in cases like this. There may be drawbacks to this I haven’t thought of.

      2. From this range you can’t tell what he had in his hands. But if it was a knife, it was a small knife.

        1. When it comes to knives, size really doesn’t matter much.

    2. It doesn’t end with officers de-escalating the situation. How about one officer pulls a gun, the other pulls mace/taser. If perp doesn’t stop, taser his ass. If perp is one of those 1 in a million superfreaks that can resist tasers that the cop fellators insist are commonplace, then cop number 2 shoots.

  5. Wasn’t this the guy who was supposedly shouting “Shoot me now”?

    1. How does that make a single iota of difference?

      1. Well, obviously he ordered them to do it so it was justified.

      2. It makes a difference to Papaya’s cop-fellating fantasies, you sex negative sack of shit.

        1. Yes, of course, but I wanted to know why that would make an iota of difference to non-cop-fellators.

        2. Hey jerk, I was just asking a question. Please avoid projecting your desires onto me.

          1. Of what relevance is your question again??

      3. That depends on how you feel about the legality and morality of assisted suicide.

      4. Episiarch, I was just wondering because this video doesn’t match the initial description of the case I read. So I don’t know if this is a different case, or the initial reporting was wrong.

    2. He shouts it. You can hear it in the video.

      1. Ah, thanks, I didn’t hear it.

      2. See, how hard was that, people? Just answering my question instead of going off on me for imagined sins.

  6. I think it’s pretty reasonable to believe he had a knife. None of the bystanders, who heard the police yell “drop the knife”, objected to that fact. And from their reactions I think they would have. The shooting sure seems very, very sudden. Maybe a minute between the police arriving and the shooting? But knives are very dangerous up close. The closer, the more dangerous. So not allowing him to close on them would definitely be in their training.

    That said, they could have bought a lot of time by making space between themselves and Powell. They could have bought a lot of safety by using their vehicle as an obstacle while they tried to talk to him, and maybe used it as cover for non-lethal force (Tasers?) first.

    The attitude looks a lot like shoot first and ask questions later, related to the all-important officer safety, with almost no regard whatsoever for the safety of either Powell or the bystanders.

    Anyhow, in this case Powell *was* armed, and a knife definitely is lethal force. Just because the weapon isn’t a gun doesn’t mean it isn’t lethally dangerous.

    1. Not even close to a minute for the cops to think and react. They open their SUV doors and get out at about 1:25 and first shot is fired at 1:40. So they had at most 20 seconds to respond and figure out what the hell is going on, and during that time someone holding a knife and walking toward them shouts “Shoot me (now)” at least 4 times. Looks like he wanted to be a martyr and the cops obliged.

      As for Tasers, even if they were carrying them, they frankly did not have time to safely switch weapons. Holstering a firearm hastily, additionally in this case with an adrenaline rush, can be a dangerous action. When anyone is facing not only an imminent threat but an immediate one, putting their tool down to use a different less lethal one would be quite dumb.

      Their mistake, imho, was getting out of the vehicle with guns already drawn. They made the decision to use lethal force before making any assessment of the situation whatsoever, rather than rely on it as the last resort. That decision limited their options. That said, when they arrived Powell still had his hand in his pocket. He pulled the knife at 1:29. Before that point the cops couldn’t have known what he had.

      1. The cops could have know what he had if the call that summoned them mentioned that he had a knife. From the surveillance video posted he doesn’t show one during his alleged shoplifting, but he might have flashed one to the clerk off camera. Might have. Could have. Not saying he did. But *if* he did, that information would have been conveyed by the dispatcher.

        1. You’re correct, they did know or at least were told by a 911 caller that Powell had a knife, possibly two. The dispatcher conveyed that to the officers as Powell having a knife in his hand and another in his pocket.

          My thinking when writing that they didn’t know was they didn’t or couldn’t have known if he had a knife or also had a gun, and immediately ready, because they couldn’t see both his hands when they drove up. Shoving your hand into your jacket pocket right as police pull up on you looks extremely suspicious. I was just going by the video and hadn’t heard the 911 calls.


  7. He may or may not have had a knife, but I don’t know what they mean by holding the knife high. I enlarged the video a little bit and it appears as though this guy’s hands are at his side (cannot be sure, though).

    1. Everyone there is talking about him holding a knife; the cops and some of the others mention him holding a knife. Seems like he had it in his right pocket early in the video and pulled it when the cops arrived. The police told him to drop the knife as he began to approach them.

      Suicide by cops. Damn.

      1. Video of Powell shoplifting right before he was shot:

        1. I thought you were making a joke, but damn, another MO shoplifting case that ends in death. What a trend.

          1. Technically, Brown (to whom I assume you are referring as the other shoplifter) did not shoplift, but committed (strong arm?) robbery. But, point made about trend.

            1. Are you sure? Did you not see the whole video.

              As William Norman Grigg observes, Brown appears to be putting money on the counter – before grabbing the cigars.

              There was no robbery. Brown, if it was him, pushed the clerk AFTER he grabs the cigars.

              1. Did you see the video? Where does the suspect place money on the counter?

                Here’s the video, tell me where exactly what you are alleging occurred.


                1. One more thing: as to whether or not the man seen committing strong arm robbery was him, Brown’s parents identified their son as the suspect shoving the clerk in the video, which is why I referred to him as such earlier.

              2. So you’re buying the “no robbery” theory, eh? Here are the problems with that:

                1) The money can’t be clearly seen, so we can’t tell if it is money, or how much it is. Maybe Brown paid for one cigar, and then grabbed the whole box.

                2) It makes no sense for the clerk to come around the counter and confront Brown if he had just gotten paid the proper amount.

                1. You really cannot think of a reason other than that?

                2. Also, the clerk is not handing Brown the cigarellos, which would happen in a normal transaction like this. Instead, Brown is reaching way over the counter and grabbing a shit ton of them–so many that they are falling out of his arms and on to the floor. This does not appear like normal shopping behavior, but looks like theft.

                  1. Brown reaches across the counter, then suddenly jumps back, as if surprised.

                    I thought I read somewhere that the store owner or clerk denied that he was robbed, or something?

                    1. I heard this, too. I haven’t read it myself. If he did say this, it’s hard to square with the video. It’s possible that the shop owner was trying to spare his business from “retribution” from the community. We’ll see.

        2. Oh, he was shoplifting! This changes everything! Those fucking shoplifters need to be taught a lesson!

          1. No one is saying this. Consider this, though. Thousands of people across the country are busted for shoplifting on a daily basis, a good number of them black. Yet, few, if any, end up shot to death. Clearly, something else is going on here, wouldn’t you agree?

    2. Can’t be sure, but let’s offer our opinion from thousands of miles away.

      1. The video is right here, though. There are still questions, as I indicated, but it discloses a lot.

        Plus, this is a comment section of an online political magazine. Commentators gonna comment. Happens a lot here, often with less to go on.

  8. Is “back up” and the drawing of police lines fifty yards away from the victim the new way of making sure that nothing evidentiary gets captured on camera? Because I’m not sure if he had a knife or what, but I know that those lines that turn citizen-journos into criminals look awfully fucking far from the victim.

  9. I can see him pull something that looks like a knife with his right hand, then steadily closed on one officer.
    Google ‘knife wound pics’. I’d rather be shot than stabbed.

  10. Google “21 foot rule”. It’s the MINIMUM safe distance for a person to engage someone armed with an edged weapon. He has a knife in hand, he’s closing on the cops, he doesn’t drop the knife when commanded to, he’s threatening, and he’s within 21 feet. In the real world, that combination equals dead, regardless of whether your arms are raised or not. Anyone; citizen, cop, or fucking circus clown, would have been fully justified in smoking this moron.

    1. What if he was just mentally ill and not a moron? And why didn’t cops at least try a taser before “smoking” him?

      1. How would you know he is mentally ill?

    2. That rule applies to a holstered firearm, not to a drawn one. I don’t know if there is a similar rule for a drawn and pointed firearm.

  11. You guys justifying this execution by cop are amazing. Remember that cop who nailed all those protesters out in Cali with that orange OC spray? That stuff can travel, and could have put a quick halt to this guy, after which he could have been sent off to the local psycho ward – which is where he really should have been, not the jail or the morgue.

    And, as long as we’re talking about people getting shot after stealing goods, Brown’s headlong rush towards Officer Wilson could have been stopped short by a faceful of OC spray, instead of six shots from a pistol. And there wouldn’t have been a needless deat – and Brown wouldn’t be any more of a danger to Wilson, he’d be too busy trying to breathe and see, to be any sort of threat.

    1. Shooting a person armed with a knife and behaving in a threatening manner is NOT an “execution” by any stretch of the imagination, unless you’re a complete fucking moron.

      OC spray isn’t some magic panacea that instantly disables everyone who comes into contact with it. It works on some people, and others just shrug it off. Being beaten or stabbed to death is no time to discover the difference. These were not limp-wristed hippies shitting on police cars; they were violent or armed criminals.

      1. Shooting a person who is armed with a knife and merely yelling is completely unnecessary, unless you’re a complete fucking moron. Or a coward. Or a combination of both.

        1. “a complete fucking moron. Or a coward. Or a combination of both.” is a lot of words to use to say “cop.”

        2. right. the dude obviously was walking up to the police to give them a hug. I know i always pull a knife out when i walk up to give someone a hug.

  12. I get it. Police bad. Can you wait until the body is removed from the street to start passing judgment?

  13. Dude, I hope they’ve removed the body, as it’s in the high 90s there and this happened a day and a half ago. Besides, the cops handcuffed the corpse for reasons of “officer safety”. And this time, the whole thing is on video, there’s not the usual BS with dashcams not installed or malfunctioning or defective or the battery died or the police dog mistook the cam for his chew toy…

    1. Yep, the guy’s erratic behavior, his reaching into his pocket and pulling out a knife, his walking towards the cops wirh knife in hand, the commands to drop the knife, his yelling SHOOT ME, it’s all on video, and it’s STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH for some of you fucking morons, because you’ve already decided that the cops were wrong, and the knife-weilding criminal threatening to kill them was somehow the victim.

      1. Remember that OC orange pepper spray that that kampus kop nailed those nonviolent demonstrators with at the UC Davis campus sit-in? That stuff hits you in the face and it gives you other things to think about for a while, plus you’re not going to be doing a lot of seeing until the stuff gets washed off…

        One of those cops could have given this guy a faceful of OC and his “headlong” rush would have ended up with him getting cuffed and transported to the local psycho ward – which is where suicidal people should end up anyway – instead of the morgue. No need for the firing squad, no need at all, “Anon E. Mouse”, you police suck-up, you moron.

        1. The same could have been done in Michael Brown’s case – he attacks the cop, gets a faceful of pepper spray, end of incident, cuffed and transported. To jail, not the morgue. Oh, and in the case of Mr Powell, since when does a can of soda get magically transformed into a “knife”?

      2. Today on the radio, a cop was explaining that their procedure is to declare ahead of time which partner will do non-lethal and who will do lethal.

        That seems smart. Non-lethal guy is up to bat first, but he feels safer because lethal guy is there.

        Also less mistakes like reaching for taser but getting gun instead.

      3. He was making a statement that police are the only ones with legal authority to kill.

        It’s not necessarily erratic. Watch it again with this in mind. He knew he was being recorded.

        He gives people a wide berth when they walk by, not being threatening at all. Even says to get away.

        He takes 5 steps backwards when the police car arrives. He then takes 7 steps forward and stops, shouting “Shoot me.”

        This is the incredible part. He then looks back to see bystanders behind him in the line of fire of the policemen’s guns. He then walks sideways, even stepping over the wall, before taking 2 steps toward the police when he is shot.

        That took a lot of presence of mind to do. Yes, Kajieme Powell was troubled, but he knew that the police would act by the book, which they did, and killed him.

        It’s time to rewrite the book.

  14. This is horrifying. The cops had absolutely no alternative to killing him?

    John Douglas, the FBI guy who helped develop criminal profiling, says that most people he’s seen to claim the “insanity defense” are lying, because nobody commits a crime if they know that a cop is watching. This guy was almost certainly mentally handicapped.

    “Shoot me now!” he says. This should be a tip-off that the guy needs help. Get back in the vehicle until backup arrives, but keep your guns trained in case he threatens bystanders. Pull out a can of mace, set your taser to stun, whatever.

    As a side note, are people rioting over this second shooting?

    1. None of the bystanders seemed to be running for cover until the cops showed up and pushed them back.

    2. The cops had absolutely no alternative to killing him?

      Well, there was nothing on TV.

  15. Huh, interesting tactic. To keep people from taking video of the scene, they turn the entire neighborhood into a crime scene. “Police line, do not cross”.

    So that’s how it’s gonna be huh?

    1. And they see people with cameras up and don’t ask names for witness reports? Aren’t interested in the video evidence?

      1. Oh they’re interested in it.

    2. Yep. I made that point above. Do you see how far the police lines were away from the victim? Is this going to become the new tactic to prevent evidence from being obtained by video?

  16. Why do people do vertical video? I dont get it.


    1. I know it’s anon-bot, but vertical is easier to keep steady with 1 hand, horizontal usually needs 2 to keep steady and not look like Batman.

  17. After the police shot him it appeared they kicked something away from him. Reasonable to think it COULD have been a knife. I couldn’t see the knife, but it sounds like he said ‘shoot me now’, advanced on the cop, and likely with a knife in his hand.

    However, why step out of the car with a gun in your hand? Is that necessary? Why not back up if the guy comes towards you? Isn’t that more reasonable? It gives you more time to make a decision, and more time to talk him out of his ‘suicide by cop’.

    On the other hand…how many young black guys have guns? I don’t know the answer to that. Is it more than 50%. If it is, then stepping out of your car with a gun in your hand is probably reasonable.

    The video is sickening though.

  18. Except… in the video the guy making the video can be heard saying, “his hands are up” and then kajieme turns and moves towards the officers…

  19. I watched it once and thought the cops were wrong.

    A second time, and you can see the kid keep approaching them, then goes up the raised area to flank the cop. He looked to be only feet away at that point and then he gets shot.

  20. What’s most disturbing to me is this article by senior editor Brian Doherty. The man pulled something out of his pocket and had his fist clenched in a way someone would while holding a knife. After the man was shot while walking toward the officer, he rolled forward to the officer’s feet. That shows just how close he was to the officer. It would not have taken more than a second or two for him to cover that distance and attacked the officer with a knife. I thought Reason was above this type of journalism.

  21. “Was Kajieme Powell Really Holding High a Knife When Shot to Death by Police?” On its face, this looks like suicide-by-police (he appeared to be talking himself through it as he waited) so I think it is he may well have had a knife, though his arms appeared to have been at his side when he was shot. In any case, the proper question should be whether NINE SHOTS at close range was a proportional response to the threat. I think reasonable person would answer that question with a no.
    We have a clear militarization of police in this country at a time when the overall crime rate appears to be dropping (despite the economic downturn). It is time to end the politics of fear – it is not helping.

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