Kajieme Powell: The Second Shooting in Ferguson


I don’t have time to be as verbose as I usually am and go into great detail, which is probably a godsend to those that read my stuff, but here’s the details on a second shooting of a black man that occurred near Ferguson from The Guardian:

Angry residents of a black neighbourhood in St Louis, not far from Ferguson, accused the police of excessive force after two officers fired several bullets into a 23-year-old man described as carrying a knife and behaving erratically. The man has not yet been named but he was well known in the area and was said to have learning difficulties.

Sam Dotson, the chief of St Louis’s metropolitan police, said the man did not obey orders to drop a knife and was within four feet of the officers when they shot him. The dead man was later named locally as Kajieme Powell.


“As officers arrived, the suspect turned towards the officers and started to walk towards them, clutching his waistband. He then pulled out a knife in what we describe as an overhand grip, and told the officers: ‘Shoot me now, kill me now’.”

Check out this cell phone video of the incident just released today:

Kajieme had a history of mental illness or learning difficulties; it’s not entirely clear, but he was obviously looking for suicide-by-cop. So why was the first instinct to shoot this man? Why did they handcuff a dead man? And does the video align with the police accounts that he had the knife in a overhand grip?

I interviewed Officer Chris Fackey for the Lindenwald Ledger for my journalism class. He was retiring after being with the force since 1979. He recounted this story to me:

He responded to a domestic disturbance call. Terry Lee Rice was attacking his wife, 3-year-old daughter and other family members with a knife. After Fackey arrived, the man charged at him, stabbing the officer in the chest, in the arm pit and the arm. Fackey was wearing his bulletproof vest and that possibly saved his life. He would end up with a sizeable bruise on his chest, but the suspect was then subdued.

Emphasis is mine. I realize these are two different cases over a decade apart, but the police response is striking and I think still informative. Not only did Terry threaten and harm others with the knife, but he actually stabbed Fackey! Three times! And they still subdued him. Even though his situation sounds like a clear case of self-defense.

Seems today they would have blown his head off.

2 thoughts

  1. Vests have changed considerably over the years; today they offer greater protection against firearms but less against knives.

    So why was the first instinct to shoot this man?

    UH, Because he was threatening them with lethal force???? Because there were people standing around watching this unfold instead of getting away from an apparently mentally unstable criminal???
    Because he continued to close the distance despite repeated commands??

    What would you have them do?

    Why did they handcuff a dead man?
    Because sometimes people in the stress of the moment make a wrong decision regarding vital signs. They don’t want a ‘dead’ person hurting others because of their mistake. Just an added precaution.

    realize these are two different cases over a decade apart, but the police response is striking and I think still informative.

    Not only are they incredibly different but the threat presented completely different. In one case there wasn’t an opportunity to draw and fire in all likelihood; Rice probably charged before the officer could recognize the threat. Look up OODA loop -observe, orient, decide, and act.

    In the current situation, the officers had better communication, clear visibility and signs of impending danger. An obviously agitated person was clearly visible as they approached, he gave them clear indications that he was going to harm them and the only way he was going to be stopped was by lethal force.

    That brings me to my last point — ‘less than lethal’ options are still lethal force options; they just have a lower — NOT NULL — opportunity to cause death. Stun devices have repeatedly caused death if the suspect was high on drugs. OC Sprays often fail but can also cause death.

    I’ll end with this — do I think that sometimes cops shoot too often? Yes. Do I think that the attitude of cops “My first responsibility is to go home safely every night” is a problem – yes. If they can’t accept that their job is to stand in danger for other people then they shouldn’t have the job.

    Even though his situation sounds like a clear case of self-defense.

    But lets not forget that if someone says they are going to harm me or the officers, if he says that the only want to stop him is to shoot him; why shouldn’t we believe him?

    Bob S.


    1. Bob, I appreciate you taking the time to read my piece and respond as fully as you have. A few notes in response:

      Good point about the bulletproof vest, although if it worked for Officer Fackey in 1999 (in terms of saving his life — he still suffered considerable bruising), I find it hard to imagine that bulletproof vests have lessened in the last fifteen years to guard against that?

      You’re absolutely right. Officer Fackey had less of a chance to react to the situation; evidently so, he was stabbed, but doesn’t that only show that the officers in this case had more time to make a decision? It wasn’t the proverbial split-second judgment people say they make. They had time to consider options and they went with the deadliest first.

      Very good point about non-lethal methods. Indeed; it’s true that a stun gun has killed individuals, typically with pre-existing conditions. I’ve heard of bean bag blasts killing individuals as well.

      Oh, I agree with you, Bob, he was trying to provoke the police. And it worked. Isn’t that a problem? For more of my thoughts and reaction to this, I did a follow up post you can find here: http://wp.me/p3warO-Ex

      Thanks again for your comments.


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