August 20, 2014

On Tuesday, another young black man was shot dead by police just a couple of miles away from Ferguson, but the press on the scene were assured the circumstances were very different.

Here is the official account released to the press yesterday:

When police arrived, they said Powell walked toward them clutching his waistband. They say he then pulled out a knife and held it up in what Dotson described as an "overhand grip."

The officers, who were still in the patrol vehicle, say Powell yelled, "Shoot me now, kill me now." The police officers yelled at Powell to drop the knife, but Dotson says Powell did not respond to verbal commands. Witnesses say they heard police giving verbal commands to Powell to drop the knife.

Dotson says one officer got out of the patrol car, and when Powell displayed his knife, the officers drew their weapons.

According to Dotson, Powell walked toward the officer still sitting in the patrol car, and when he moved between three and four feet from the vehicle holding the knife, both officers fired their weapons, striking him. The officers are identified as a 25-year-old man with 3.2 years of service and a 31-year-old man with 2.6 years of service.

The video is shocking and graphic. Be forewarned. If you don't want to watch it, here are my impressions:

I did see Powell walk toward the officers. I didn't hear them tell him to stop or turn around, though. Powell approaches, they shoot. And they shoot a lot of bullets. It all happens very, very fast. I also didn't see anything in his hands, nor did he bring them up in a threatening way. I don't see where they found it necessary to shoot him.

Powell's parents contend that he was mentally ill, but not violent.

Was deadly force the only option in that situation? Why no taser?

UPDATE: I missed this detail the first time around and it's a big one. According to the official police statements, Powell was holding that knife in an overhand grip.

In a statement delivered yesterday before a crowd near the scene of the shooting, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said that both officers opened fire on Powell after the suspect came within three or four feet of police while holding the knife in an "overhand grip."

No he wasn't. I didn't see a knife, and I sure as hell saw no overhand grip. That's just not there.

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