The video shot on August 19 opens on a quiet street in the north side of St. Louis. Filming with his phone, the citizen videographer focuses in on a young black man pacing on a street corner, wearing a hooded sweater almost totally unzipped over a white t-shirt. Before the six-minute clip ends, this man, 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, will be dead on the sidewalk — the latest victim of a police shooting.
His death came as nightly rage continued to occupy the streets of nearby Ferguson over the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on August 9. Like another very recent victim of a fatal cop shooting in Los Angeles, Ezell Ford, Powell was known to suffer from mental illness.
According to reports, Powell is suspected of having shoplifted some pastries and energy drinks from a convenience store earlier that day. Having been called over this incident, in which Powell was alleged to have brandished a knife, a police cruiser rolls up to the corner where we see an apparently unarmed Powell pacing about. We see Powell run at no great pace towards the officers, who left their car and immediately pulled out guns. He reportedly said "Shoot me already!" to them. And they did. A dozen shots can be heard in the footage, shot at Powell from near pointblank range.
"They just killed this man," the videographer comments. The video appears to show, as the narrator describes, cops then putting Powell's lifeless body in handcuffs. The St. Louis Police Department said that the two officers, not yet identified, fired 12 shots at Powell after he ignored orders to put down a knife, which they said appeared to be a steak knife.
Remarkably, it was the St. Louis chief of police who released the incriminating video, alongside footage of Powell's alleged shoplifting. Based on tweets from the department, it seems the release is a grasp at damage control. "Transparency and openness builds the public's trust in their police department," one tweet notes. One response on Twitter reads, "so does not shooting them." One wonders if the police are simply so assured in their impunity and right to use lethal force that they see little wrong with the brutal execution we see here.
The videographer's remark, moments after Powell is felled, is as adept as it is tragic: "Here we go again."
Follow Natasha Lennard on Twitter: @natashalennard