I have to applaud the police of St Louis. They are pretty powerful. Somehow, they managed to take a video which captures a fatal, unjustified and unnecessary police shooting, and turn it into a video which, they claim, is “exculpatory” and proves that they were in the right.
In order to understand how they were able to transform the footage to suit their needs, let’s review what everyone agrees happened.
On Tuesday, in St Louis, fewer than four miles away from where the unarmed teenager Michael Brown was killed by police, a convenience store owner called 911 to report that a man later identified as Kajieme Powell had stolen pastries energy drinks. Another woman called the police and said that Powell had a knife in his pocket and was behaving erratically. Two white officers arrived in an SUV. 23 seconds later, Powell, who was black, was dead on the ground, having been shot by the two officers.
On Wednesday, The St. Louis Police Department released footage recorded on a cell phone by a bystander. According to a police union representative, the footage released was “exculpatory.” In other words, the police decided to release the footage, along with the 911 calls, to show they had nothing to hide.
But let’s compare the footage of what happened and what the police claimed happened.
Police Claim: the police officers started shooting when Powell was within three or four feet of them.
Footage shows: Police started shooting before Powell was that close.
Police Claim: Powell was holding the knife “in an overhand grip.”
Footage shows: Powell’s hands were by his sides.
Police Claim: It was justifiable and self defense. when Police Chief Sam Dotsons was asked whey the police had not used a taser on Powell, he responded, “The way that tasers operate; there are two probes that are fired. Both probes have to make contact with the individual and their skin in order for them to work…. This individual had a jacket on. I’m not saying tasers are not an option, what I’m saying is tasers are not 100 percent.” He also said, “These officers felt they were in a lethal situation, that their lives were in jeopardy and I think we have to remember that these officers have a right at the end of the day to go home…. They have a right to protect themselves.”
Footage shows: The shooting could have been avoided and the officers did not appear to be in immediate danger. Powell did not, in fact, have his knife up in the air. Nor was he that close. Nor was he running towards the police. He was walking at a normal pace. The police had time to fire a warning shot or to shoot him once. But what can justify shooting someone nine times? Especially after they are down on the ground?
Why would the police tout a video, which not only presents the shooting as unnecessary but directly disproves certain facts as they had presented them? In other words, even if you watch the video and say these guys made the right choice, they still lied about the position of the gun and the distance between Powell and the officers.
It would be one thing to argue about the justification but what about the veracity?
I can’t help but think that the police are so out of touch with the communities they “serve,” are so sure of themselves and of their impunity, that they either didn’t care or didn’t notice that they were outing themselves as dishonest or, at the very least mistaken. I can’t help but think that had the victim been white, the police wouldn’t have seen the video as such exculpating. But really, had he man been white, he probably wouldn’t have become a victim in the first place. He probably wouldn’t have been shot nine times. Just like Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Ezell Ford and John Crawford III would be alive today if they had been white instead of Black.