1) Powell is acting erratically, even aggressively. I do not expect police to allow such a person to come within knife range of themselves.
2) The police description of the incident does not match the video in several places. Their story makes the police sound better and more justified than they are.
- (a) The police have their guns drawn immediately upon exiting the vehicle.
- (b) Powell was way more than 2-3 feet away when they fired.
- (c) He never did hold the knife high or in an overhand grip. It is not even obvious to me at all from the video that he has any weapon in his hands, which are down at his side and swinging as he walks.
It is possible that Powell could have been talked down if a different approach had been taken from the beginning. It's also clear in the longer video that Powell was agitated, borderline unhinged, and seemed to be seeking a confrontation with police, possibly even seeking this outcome. I think at the moment that the police pulled the trigger, that some force was justified, or about to be (assuming that there was actually a knife in his hand.) But let's talk about using the minimal force required.
Even if your only available solution is guns, at that range they could have shot him once, or possibly twice, and then given that a second to see how the situation was changed. Twice is a lot of times to get shot. You can always shoot him more if he keeps advancing like the Terminator on PCP, but we do not need to immediately invoke a hail of bullets.
In other words, you can start small, if shooting someone can even be called that, and escalate if required. What we see is more like a switch that flips into "and now we're going to kill you" mode. Also, were guns the only available solution? I don't know for sure, but there were two police officers and it was obvious to both of them that force might be needed, because they both had their guns drawn. One can keep a gun trained on Powell while the other switches from gun to taser, or gets the bean bag shotgun, or whatever options they have available. Fucking mace. Something.
I also realize that this shit happens quickly, but that's what training is for. 20 seconds is a blink when you're caught off-guard, but it's an eternity to respond when you already know what to do. Have the police in St. Louis been trained to deescalate situations using the minimum required force? I see no evidence of that. I see bullies with guns. This is not just a failure of the officers on scene, it is a failure of their training and management and leadership. Their chief of police is not just failing Kajieme Powell and the public, he is failing the officers that work under him. Either these two officers do not care that they killed this person, or they killed him because they didn't know how to not kill him. Either way, that is a serious problem. We need to go beyond merely asking if there was any minimal justification for a shooting, and ask instead whether it was necessary because it was the only remaining option.
The Huffington post link shows the incorrect police statement and then the shooting itself. It is a video of a man being shot to death for real, so be warned. The Reason.com link has a longer video showing more of the before and after. Both are disturbing.