The two St. Louis police officers who fatally shot a man just days after Black teenager Michael Brown was killed by a White police officer in nearby Ferguson will not face criminal charges, the city’s prosecutor announced Tuesday.
In a 40-page report released this week, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said prosecutors “determined a criminal violation against either officer could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt” in the death of 25-year-old Kajieme Powell. Evidence gathered from forensics, 911 calls, video, and witness accounts proved the officers acted in self-defense, the Huffington Post reports. Powell was reportedly holding a steak knife when he was shot.
Witness and police reports about Powell’s behavior and his handling of the knife differ greatly, however.
According to the Post:
This conclusion rests on their finding that Powell was wielding a knife as he walked towards the two police officers outside Six Star Market on the 8700 block of Riverview Boulevard in the early afternoon of August 19, 2014.
Both police officers and some witnesses testified that Powell had a knife, and prosecutors found that a video of the incident shows Powell at one point pulling a knife out of his pocket, which some have disputed. Police claimed to recover a knife from Powell, described as “nine inch-long, wood-handled and metal-bladed” in the report. Photographs of a knife are included in the report.
A 3-D spatial analysis report showed that Powell could have reached the officers in just seconds, a finding that justified the shooting, prosecutors tell KSDK.
“The analysis we received was that, at the time the shooting began, he could have reached those officers within one to two seconds,” explained Cynthia Copeland, the Chief Prosecutor for the Force Investigation Unit of the Circuit Attorney’s Office. “And based on that information, and that he was armed, it’s clear to us [the officers] had a claim of self-defense.”
Both officers — a 27-year-old 2011 police academy graduate and a 32-year-old who did not have Crisis Intervention Team training — told police investigators they feared they would be injured. Video shows the officers as they arrive on scene. Shortly after, Powell is dead. Forensics show that the three-second shooting left Powell with 13 entrance wounds.
A medical examiner determined it only took four of those 13 shots to kill Powell, the Post writes.
On Tuesday, family members told reporters that Powell suffered from schizophrenia and depression, a factor that brought scrutiny to the St. Louis Police Department on how they deal with individuals with mental health illnesses. When asked during the investigation why the officers did not use a Taser to subdue Powell, Officer 1, as he is identified in the report, said he didn’t have time to deploy the stun gun.
“I was hoping it would be different, that they would be charged because Kajieme never used force toward anybody,” said Powell’s grandmother, Mildred Powell.
“I can’t understand why they would get out of their cars with the guns drawn and shooting him.”
In the first half of 2015, the Washington Post found that police had already killed 124 people with mental-health issues.
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