A Test of Sorts: Kajieme Powell

A question was posed about what could have been going through Kajieme Powell as he waited for St. Louis police to arrive.  Lacking that magical power to read the minds of others, to project my thoughts into his and assume they were valid, I demurred.  Of course, Powell can’t explain because he’s dead.

The background was unsatisfying.

Authorities said Kajieme Powell stole donuts and energy drinks from a store yesterday afternoon, which prompted the owner to call police, according to KSDK. When two officers arrived shortly before 1 p.m., they said they observed Powell acting erratically. He refused to put down a knife when commanded to do so, police said.

Witnesses said the suspect yelled, “Shoot me now. Kill me now,” before approaching officers. Some people who saw the shooting described it as “suicide by cop,” according to USA Today.

Maybe.  Or maybe Powell, a few miles away from Ferguson, decided to test the police, to challenge them to kill another young black man. Maybe he thought he would be a martyr to the cause. Or maybe he suffered from mental illness and lacked the ability to recognize that what he was doing was not merely wrong, but fatally dangerous.  Maybe Powell could explain, but he can’t. He’s dead.

Even if it wasn’t a test for Kajieme Powell, it turned out to be one for the St. Louis police.

It’s not entirely clear what happened before the police officer shot and killed Powell.  What is clear, in the video that juxtaposes the police press conference with the video of his killing, is that the story offered by Chief Sam Dotson of the St. Louis police bore no relation to what happened.  No doubt he repeated what he was told, whether by the officers involved or through the chain on information that eventually bubbles up to the guy in a white shirt in front of the cameras.  Either way, the story was nonsense. Completely, totally false.

If this was a test, the police failed.  So too did Kajieme Powell.

This isn’t to say what did happen, and certainly not “why.”  No doubt the St. Louis police were unaware that the whole scene was caught on video from a distance.  Had they known, perhaps they would have been more circumspect in the story put out for public consumption.  Or seized the video so no one would be able to put a compilation, as above, on Youtube to make the cops look like liars.

In the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a story emerged from Chief Thomas  Jackson, which has served as the foundation for all discussion, in contrast to the first-hand statements of others who witnessed events.  Within the debate between competing narratives, one aspect has become both highly controversial and summarily rejected by those supporting Darren Wilson and the police.

Is the press briefing by the police the equivalent in terms of reliability as the first hand statements of witnesses?   Or to put it another way, is there a debate to be had as to which narrative, in the absence of anything else, should prevail?

In the story offered the media by St. Louis Chief Dotson, the details were fairly straightforward.  He didn’t rely too much on the vagaries of policespeak, jargon, wiggle words or qualified assertions. Indeed, he was kind enough to physically demonstrate how Kajieme Powell raised his arm, raised the knife, in an “overhand grip,” to show how he presented an imminent threat to the life of the officer.  It didn’t happen, as the video shows, but it made for a solid justification.

When Chief Jackson gave his press briefing, it was replete with qualifications, wiggling and jiggling all the way through.  He emphasizes how Brown, allegedly, “physically assaulted the police officer.”  For the unaware, this is a conclusory statement, a phrase devoid of meaning in the absence of a description of what specific conduct occurred.

It is our understanding, at this point in the investigation, that within the police car, there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon.

A struggle?  Does that mean that he is claiming the Michael Brown grabbed hold of Police Officer Darren Wilson’s gun and attempted to pull it away from the officer? Does that mean that Brown moved his hand to deflect the gun from aiming as his head? Does that mean anything?  Well, it means that if the story tendered by Chief Jackson went unchallenged, the officer was faced with a threat.  But then, it was challenged.  Even so, Jackson’s story gave rise to assumptions about its meaning, but provided no specific facts.

Despite this, many, including some very knowledgeable people who should know much better, have embraced the police narrative, reading into the vagaries, the qualifications, the wiggle words, what they needed to “believe” the story to be real and damning of Michael Brown.

But as is clear from Chief Dotson’s narrative in the killing of Kajieme Powell, a story is just a story until there is evidence to support it.  Sometimes, as here, the story is false. It’s just a story, even if told by the police chief.  What it is not is the equivalent of witness accounts.

At Techdirt, Mike Masnick notes the fallacy of the “he said/she said” theory of journalism.  It’s “easy and lazy” to offer the stories of both sides as if each was of equal weight.  The media explains this as “balance,” but it’s the opposite: there is no balance to present the public with eyewitness reports, on the one side, and an unsourced fairy tale, replete with vagaries and assumptions, on the other, as if they were equally worthy of belief.

The same smart people who embraced the police narrative, with blind faith, in the Michael Brown killing responded to challenge by pointedly asking, “are you saying the cops lied?”  The smart folks know, or at least should know, that this is a fool’s question.  The issue isn’t whether the cops lied, in its broadest sense rather than the intentional act of offering false information to deceive, but whether a fairy tale, true or false, is comparable to the statements of identified witnesses who subject themselves to question and scrutiny.

Whether or not Chief Dotson “lied” about the killing of Kajieme Powell is unclear. What is certain is that his story was completely wrong. That’s why the story of Michael Brown offered by Chief Jackson is unworthy of acceptance. Without more, it’s just the police fairy tale, even if reported by the media as if we should believe it.

54 thoughts on “A Test of Sorts: Kajieme Powell

  1. John Thacker

    Unfortunately, I think I expect that if the media agreed that the “he said/she said” narrative is flawed, and it’s a mistake to present both stories as of equal weight, then they would conclude that the problem is treating the stories of known and suspected criminals with the same weight as our trusted public servants and representatives of the legal system. I’ve seen far too many stories that indeed strive to avoid false balance– by obviously tilting in favor of the police side of the story, since they’re the police.

  2. John Thacker

    In practice, abandoning balance will not on net favor those with less power and lower status in society. A large part of problems of the accused stem from the fact that most people trust cops more than they deserve; police officers are very high status, and wield great power. While it’s very nice to say that false balance should be abandoned for hearing only the trust, I think the reality is that false balance would be abandoned in exchange for only hearing the side of the powerful and the high status.

    1. SHG Post author

      As we know, there is an “unholy alliance” between the media and law enforcement, though many reporters I know privately find it all reprehensible. The hope is that piece by piece, the point gets through to the public, who demands better of the media. The media is a weird animal, mostly concerned with eyeballs to sell advertisements. If the eyeballs come from blind acceptance of police, then that’s what they media will feed them. If not, things will change.

      There’s good reason to be cynical, but cynicism won’t change if we succumb to it as an immutable reality. So we try to make it better.

      1. John Thacker

        I certainly agree with all of that. I just feel like in the current environment, the “he said/she said” approach probably gets the defendant’s side of the story in the article more than a general policy of abandoning balance would.

        Absolutely true that the most important thing to do is to get the public to demand better, and change their minds. But when the public demands defending “our boys in blue,” balance is better than the alternative, and possibly the only way to change minds, I think.

  3. John Barleycorn

    Under the linked text “…a story emerged from Chief Thomas Jackson.” I was anticipating (well never mind what I was anticipating to see emerging from Chief Jackson’s but there might have been a ventriloquist involved)

    Anyway, I think you have inadvertently put the wrong content under that link.

      1. ExCop-LawStudent

        It was a justifiable shooting.

        Also, if you listen to the video, Chief Dotson says “overhand” grip, not “overhead.” You cannot tell from the original video what grip that Powell used, but he could have very well been holding the knife in an overhand grip at his side. This merely describes how he was holding the weapon, and as you know, an officer’s report may be described differently by people who were not there and have misread it or made bad assumptions.

        1. SHG Post author

          First, whether it was a good shoot is debatable. I understand why you say it was, he had a knife, he wouldn’t drop it upon command, they shot. On the other hand, he was too distant to strike, they had guns drawn at point blank range, the threat wasn’t imminent.

          Second, it’s irrelevant. Remember issue spotting? This isn’t about whether Powell should have been killed, but about the difference between the Chief’s statement and what happened. As for overhand (overhead was my typo, which is now corrected), the chief demonstrated. No dissembling changes his physical demonstration of what happened.

          There may be a disparity between the officer’s report and the chief’s press conference? That’s what we define as false. There may be an excuse, which is why it may not be a lie, but it remains false information disseminated to the public, no matter what excuse there is. If there is any doubt, it’s the police responsibility to ascertain the information accurately before feeding it to the media, not come up with excuses for feeding false information afterward.

          1. ExCop-LawStudent

            I’m sorry, but the threat was imminent (I address issue spotting further down). He was clearly within 21 feet of the first officer, probably at about 15 feet when the officers began to shoot. Look at the research on distance and knives, such as the Tueller drill. Scott, you are beginning with an assumption that the threat may not have been imminent, which is demonstratively incorrect. You stated that it is “not entirely clear” what happened, when it actually is entirely clear.

            Powell looked behind himself, jumped up on the ledge, to the pavement behind it and circled towards the officers who were ordering him to drop the knife (repeatedly). Powell did not do so and continued to approach, well within the zone of imminent danger to the officers.

            We know that it is imminent danger due to the Tueller drill, which shows that a person with a knife can move 21 feet and stab the officer before the officer can react and fire. I can run that drill at that distance (and have, when training officers) and the guy with the chalk knife cuts the officer every time. Sometimes the officer gets a Simunition (paint) round off, but it is rare and even more rare to be in a vital spot.

            That is also an issue here, for when you begin with an incorrect assumption on what the basic facts are as to the imminence of the threat, it has an effect on where you go with it.

            Yes, the Chief was wrong in what he demonstrated, and he should be chastised for that, but it doesn’t change the facts of Powell’s death being justifiable.

            However, it is no different than when you represent something to the court based on what your client told you, and then against your advice the client takes the stand and says something that undercuts what you represented. What you said wasn’t a lie, but it was false, not because of bad intent on your part, but because these things sometimes happen when humans communicate (or miscommunicate) with each other.

            The journalists should not be satisfied with just the chief’s answer, but should seek out more information. They should address it with the chief, but there is a major difference in providing bad information and intentionally doing so.

            Another issue that is not brought up is the demand for information immediately. Yes, we want the police to get it perfectly correct, but we also want it right now, immediately. If you want the information fast, you are going to have to deal with the fact that it may not be as accurate. If you want it more accurate, you’ll have to wait.

            Finally, I responded as I did because these officers did nothing wrong, unlike others we could be looking at. For example, the bozo who pointed his AR-15 at a journalist and said that he would kill him – we need to be asking if he is going to be charged criminally, not focusing on the miscues of the chief in a justifiable shooting.

            That’s just my two cents.

            1. Dan

              You keep using this word clear. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

              On an unrelated note, we’ve clearly got too many law schools.

            2. SHG Post author

              I will defer to your expertise as to the Tueller drill, though that isn’t the measure of propriety (no matter how clear it is to police when a threat is imminent, or that a butter knife can kill [no clue if it was a butter knife, but you don’t know it wasn’t]). As an ex-cop, you still give great weight to officer safety at the expense of human life. The rest of us want to go home for dinner too, no matter how what police drills suggest. I urge you not to be so cavalier with other people’s lives. That said, no one raised the question here of whether the Powell shoot was good except you.

              You miss (and excuse) the problem with the Chief’s false account. No matter what the excuse, it was false. The media demanded an immediate statement? That’s not an excuse for a false account.

              Your analogy to a lawyer and client is inapt. If the communication fails between lawyer and client, the party who suffers is the client. Here, the public is fed false information, which it is expected to believe because the chief said so, and it was “official.” Regardless of why is was false, it creates the basis of public information, and causes the public to form an opinion in reliance. This is a very different problem than with a lawyer and client.

              Accuracy matters. Excuses do not. It’s not about chastising the chief for misspeaking. It’s about the corrupting the public understanding of a killing by an official spreading false information. It doesn’t matter that it was a mistake; it matters that it was false. And it was false.

            3. John Bald

              I don’t know how anyone but a police representative can have seen that man’s erratic behaviour as a serious threat, let alone come out of the car with guns drawn. The video didn’t make the police out to be liars, it showed them to be so. You put the case for the defence. If the police don’t tell the truth, well, that doesn’t really matter, because they’re the police, and are entitled to get some satisfaction from their jobs.

            4. Elie

              Yes, police chiefs get “chastised,” black guys get gunned down.

              The first cop shot what appears to be a sick man with a knife — and we don’t know what kind of knife. You think it’s justified because the cop perceived a threat. I think that your definition of threat perception is borne of a system that defends racist cops’ ability to shoot first and ask questions later. I will allow that reasonable people can disagree about the actions of the first cop, but the reasonable people who agree with me will likely never have a chance to hold the cop accountable. Must be nice living on the other side of the thin blue line.

              The second cop is a fuck. He is behind on the other side of the car. His shooting was not justified in any possible way. Won’t it be interesting if it turns out that the first cop stopped the threat, but the second cop killed him.

              BOTH cops kept shooting after the man was down. I don’t even know what to do with people who don’t see that as excessive force.

              But, arguments about whether or not the killing was justified seems to miss the point that the cops DIDN’T HAVE TO KILL HIM. Whether or not they were legally justified in doing so, the fact that even that is debatable illustrates that it was far from necessary. It was not “him or me.”

              Until we get to the point where the police and their supporters start looking for ways to NOT kill people, instead of looking for ways to justify killing people, we will make no progress.

            5. Fubar

              ExCop-LawStudent wrote August 21, 2014 at 2:01 pm:

              I’m sorry, but the threat was imminent (I address issue spotting further down). He was clearly within 21 feet of the first officer, probably at about 15 feet when the officers began to shoot. Look at the research on distance and knives, such as the Tueller drill.

              In the video I see no serious danger to police that police did not create themselves, and for no reason that makes sense to me.

              Police arrived in a car with windows up. They apparently knew in advance that the subject had a knife. They had a choice to address Mr. Powell from within the car (either through PA system or crack a window and shout). Tell him to drop the knife. Inside the car they are in zero, zip, zilch, nada danger from a knife attack. But they didn’t do that.

              They both just jumped out of the car, then let Mr. Powell outflank them. Their actions also placed the non-driving officer close to the potential line of fire of the driving officer. That’s just stupid.

              If Mr. Powell did not comply to the hypothetical order from inside the car (which they didn’t give), then they could back the car up a safe distance, so the non-driver officer can exit at a safe distance from Mr. Powell. The driver can then either pull forward a safe distance and exit (thus outflanking and surrounding Mr. Powell), or the driver can exit on driver side and run a short semicircle on the street to outflank and surround him.

              At that point either officer could cover the other without a gun, because in order to approach either officer Mr. Powell would have to turn his back on the other officer. If he charges toward one officer, the other officer jump him from behind. No guns necessary.

              From there it would be at worst a standoff (or a very easy takedown from behind had Mr. Powell charged either officer) until other squad cars arrive.

              By now, you can smirk and call this “Monday morning quarterbacking by an amateur”, and you would be nominally correct. I am an amateur, not a police officer. I weigh 130# soaking wet.

              But you would also be absolutely wrong. I have actually apprehended an armed person using that method, except with no car. It resulted in unarmed “civilian” apprehension of a burglar wielding a weapon, though a screwdriver, not a knife.

              Long story short, several years ago I and two neighbors chased a burglar many blocks (all on foot). We outflanked and surrounded him in the manner I described above, at a safe distance, and waited for police to arrive. We were completely unarmed.

              The burglar was relieved when police arrived. He had spent a few crazy minutes turning in circles waving the screwdriver and shouting threats to whomever he was facing, then panicking when one of the people behind him moved into his peripheral vision. Had he rushed anyone, he would have been attacked from behind, and he knew it.

              The police were somewhat confused on arrival, and vacillated between amused congratulation and cautioning us that we really shouldn’t have tried such things at home without professional law enforcement assistance and training. The county ADA was more congratulatory when we all showed up for his arraignment. She just liked an early show of force. But the SOB absconded to Mexico before trial.

              You can believe it, or not. It made for an amusing local newspaper story at the time.

              I see no reason that the two St. Louis officers could not have “surrounded” Mr. Powell in that same manner, and held him at a safe distance until backup arrived.

              Any kid who’s ever played “keep-away” on an elementary school playground knows how the strategy works. Mongooses use it on cobras all the time.

              I’m not opposed to using guns when necessary. But I see no reason to believe police could not have arrested Mr. Powell without gunfire, had they just thought half a second in the safety of their car before they acted.

              Long comment, but no way to put it in a limerick. So sue me.


            6. ExCop-LawStudent

              @Dan. It’s a good thing I don’t care what you think. I have the utmost respect for Scott and learn from him constantly, and even though I disagree with him here, he is respectful.

              @Scott. I don’t give the officer’s word as much credit as you think. I also (as I believe you know) think that the “first rule of policing” is crap and that an officer is also responsible to make sure that the public goes home at the end of the day too. Until we get back to that philosophy (and demilitarize the police), we are going to continue to have problems.

              You’re also right about the Chief’s statement, it shouldn’t have mattered if the media demanded something immediately. The Chief should have made sure that he knew exactly what happened before he opened his mouth.

              @Elle. I’m sorry, but you are completely wrong about the second officer. It is a principle called protection of third parties or protection of others.

              Let me put it another way. You and your wife are in the same positions as the officers were, and you are the 2d officer. Are you seriously saying that you should not shoot the guy with the knife to protect your wife’s live?

              The last shots are due to reaction time. There is a good study at Force Science Inst. on the subject.

              @Fubar. There is a rule about going hand to hand with someone who is armed with a knife. Rule One – Avoid knife fights, because you will be cut or stabbed. Police know this, and are not going to close with someone who is armed with a knife.

              You were also dealing with someone who was more or less sane, unlike what appears to be the case here.

              @All. Yes, there are any number of other possible solutions that we could come up with. It is easy to do so, sitting in one’s home and musing the facts over a single malt, but that is not how it happens on the street. The officers have mere seconds. When they are wrong we should hold them accountable, discipline them, and charge them criminally if warranted. These officers were not wrong.

            7. Fubar

              ExCop-LawStudent wrote August 21, 2014 at 9:29 pm:

              @Fubar. There is a rule about going hand to hand with someone who is armed with a knife. Rule One – Avoid knife fights, because you will be cut or stabbed. Police know this, and are not going to close with someone who is armed with a knife.

              Dang tootin’! The whole point of the real-life exercise was to avoid mano a mano or even going close, by always having somebody on his 6 o’clock who he knows will charge from behind if he moves toward anybody at 12 o’clock. It keeps him turning in circles wondering what to do. It’s keep-away, or mongooses and cobra. It’s probably not good for long-time standoffs, but it is a standoff that keeps the target busy.

              Each of us (I can speak for myself if not my impromptu posse) was ready to deliver a flying kick to his 6 o’clock if he charged his 12 o’clock, and keep running. “What rules, Butch?” is my motto. The point is to avoid a frontal attack. Yeah. It’s not fair. I’ve never believed in fighting fair with thugs.

              But when seconds counted, the police were only minutes away. Six or eight of them showed up as I recall. He put up his hands and dropped the screwdriver when their cars pulled up.

              You were also dealing with someone who was more or less sane, unlike what appears to be the case here.

              True dat. Mr. Powell was literally asking the police to shoot him. But I don’t think they should have honored his request. The first two police had backup on the way. All they needed to do was stand Mr. Powell off long enough for a few more to arrive. If four or six police can’t take down a single disoriented out of shape smallish guy without using a gun, then they need remedial training. Knife or no knife.

            8. Nathaniel

              Thank you for posting your analysis. It adds context that I think absolutely should have come from the police department.

            9. Bill

              Doesn’t the Tueller drill presume that the officer’s gun is holstered? Here the police started with guns drawn. A man at 21 feet (or any distance outside of arm’s reach) doesn’t represent the same threat when the officer’s weapon is already drawn.

            1. lawrence kaplan

              Why bother to outflank?
              Just pull some rank
              And shoot to kill,
              What if he’s ill.
              To be frank–
              It stank.

    1. Photina Cook

      looks, yes. But I heard”Put the gun down” twice. I doubt the suspect was saying that to the police. I saw no guns, but I did not see the cops’ guns either.

      Can a camera really pick up speech that far away?

  4. Dan

    This incident actually takes me back to a different incident and time in NYC history, i.e., the time the police shot someone named Gidone Busch. If I remember correctly, Mr. Busch was a hassidic Jew (sort of irrelevant, I suppose, but a) he wasn’t black and b) he was probably someone who appeared to be “other” to the police), who had some kind of mental illness and started swinging a hammer around. The police shot him, because you know, hammer’s can kill. I mean, have you ever accidentally hit your finger when driving in a nail? I think this shooting came on the heels of New York’s finest shooting two black guys for looking at them funny, or something like that. After the Busch killing, I think there was a brief discussion about the question of whether the police might have tools other than bullets to deal with out of control people, e.g., pepper spray, putting on some kind of armor and clubbing the guy, tasers, a giant net, or maybe even just letting the guy tire himself out. I don’t remember that an answer was ever arrived at, but it should probably be asked again- isn’t there something we can come up with other than bullets? At least that way, the jumpy, jerky, idiot cops can still be themselves, with a little less risk of people dying at their hands.

    1. SHG Post author

      There have been many examples, and the question arises and is quickly forgotten as the next instance occurs. Among the many problems we have in attempting to stop police from resorting to deadly force whenever they feel like it is that they have long term focus, knowing that everyone will scream for five minutes, then move on to something else.

      We, the lawyers and judges, on the other hand, remain.

      Oops, and to the racial aspect, while I have no doubt that there is often a significant racial component in police attitudes toward the public, it is by no means so simplistic as to be a racial issue. If anything, it’s more related to wealth and poverty, and their associated biases, but when there is a perceived threat, no matter from whom, the First Rule of Policing always applies.

  5. David

    To quote someone’s post from August 16th,
    ” There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.

    –Sir Joshua Reynolds”

    Asking the media to take the side of being correct would often require them to determine which side is correct, and that’s not the type of hard work they signed up for when they decided to become journalists.

    1. SHG Post author

      Most journalists I know are pretty smart people. Lazy, perhaps, but smart. With sufficient prodding, they can do better. They hate being perceived as dumbass twinkies. That’s reserved for anchors.

      1. ExCop-LawStudent

        The basic premise is related to the present facts.

        We ran the Tueller drill in training in several manners. Some of it involved Simunitions, using a duty weapon that had been modified to fire .40 cal. paint rounds and chalked training knives. In all the times we ran that drill (holstered), none of our officers could hit the assailant before they were stabbed or cut (by the chalk marks).

        I was probably the 2d or 3d fastest officer at my department. I could regularly “duel” with officers, me starting holstered, them at the low ready. I was able to knock down the 5 steel plates before most of them could hit 3. Having said that, I could not draw and fire fast enough on the Tueller drill, so I doubt very seriously that a normal officer would be able to do so from a ready position.

        Even so, Powell was not at 21 feet, he was much closer. How close do you allow him to get? 15 feet? 12? 5? Or where he is actually stabbing the officer?

        1. SHG Post author

          But unholstered weapon pointed at center mass?

          And the other curious proposal is back away. Whether 15, 21 or 30 feet, it takes two to make a distance. Back away and the distance becomes a non-issue. The police are not required to retreat by law, but what of the idea of avoiding killing when possible. What evil would backing off to 30 feet, if they were too close, have done if it had the possibility of saving a life?

          I realize we’re talking very different animals, how police are trained versus what they could have done to avoid the need to kill. But that’s the point: when they could avoid the need to kill without jeopardizing anyone’s life, isn’t that what police should be trained to do? Isn’t that what we want the police to do?

          1. ExCop-LawStudent

            The main factor is reaction time. The reason I wasn’t the fastest at the department was not because of my speed in drawing or my skill, it was because the best guy was blessed with extraordinary short reaction time. That’s the same reason I was better than the rest of the department.

            I know that you like cars – you probably have a better reaction time than the average driver in braking in an emergency. But you still probably drive with enough space to have time to react, so you don’t rear end someone.

            On the other subject, backing up while facing someone armed with a knife is very dangerous. I wouldn’t do it unless I absolutely had to do so. If you make one misstep, you’re dead.

            I’ve been at scenes where we were able to deploy a beanbag shotgun and I’m all for non-lethal solutions when possible. All officers that I know think the same way. I had several occasions where I could have pulled the trigger but was able to get out of it without doing so. I was lucky – these officers did not have that option. But you’re right, if we can avoid taking a life, that’s the best solution.

            1. SHG Post author

              I think RK’s point, that this shooting may be deemed justifiable within existing law and police parameters does not make it “justifiable” in a normative sense to the rest of us, given that wealth of options that wouldn’t have resulted in Powell’s death. One thing that keeps hitting me hard between the eyes is that, per the Economist, the US had 409 police killings, while UK has zero, Japan had zero and Germany had 8.

              I reject the notion that Americans are far more criminal and violent than people of other nations to explain this disparity. If so, the problem is the police resort to force is to quick and to deadly.

        2. Dan

          Its interesting. The Tueller drill is trotted out when police explain why they need to shoot somebody. But nobody mentions it when advocating guns for personal safety and home defense. Apparently, within 21 feet, you should bring a knife to a gun fight.

    1. Dan

      Moreover, when it is taken as gospel that anyone with a knife is an imminent, lethal threat from 21 feet away, combined with the first rule of policing, I don’t see how a police officer on patrol who gets a call about a man wielding a knife does anything other than shoot the guy from 21 feet and one inch away. But surely we can do a little better than that.

      1. SHG Post author

        I think your point is what made it impossible to simply embrace the 21 foot rule. It’s inconceivable that the only criteria for killing a person is knife plus 21 feet. If so, it’s unacceptable.

  6. mitch

    “What is certain is that his story was completely wrong.” Completely? Really? The only disputed points I heard are whether the chief was demonstrating what an overhand grip looks like or demonstrating the actions of the deceased and also how quickly the police drew their weapons. Other than that I find it hard to see how the story was completely wrong.
    “he was too distant to strike, they had guns drawn at point blank range the threat wasn’t imminent” Too distant yet at point blank range? More story telling? At what point does someone coming at you in point blank range with a knife become an imminent threat? I am no fan of police, and I am a fan of your writings, but this one is a stretch.

    1. SHG Post author

      As to what was false, the video speaks for itself. It’s not an argument. It is what it is.

      As to “too distant yet at point blank rage,” one guy has a knife, the other a gun. They work differently. Do you need a more detailed explanation?

      Apparently, you see it differently than me, and a great many others. You’re allowed.

  7. Chuck

    I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I counted 10 rounds. At least 2 after the man was on the ground. Is there no obligation to use a measured response? How could a man with multiple gunshot wounds (assuming more than one of the first eight rounds hit the target) be considered a continue threat requiring 2 additional shots fired. This incident provides compelling support for your earlier post on outfitting police with video cams. The fact that the Police spokesperson put the best possible spin on the incident should not surprise anyone. Getting your version of the facts deseminated has PR value. Particularly for the audience that Sir Joshua was referencing.

    1. SHG Post author

      I wouldn’t speak for ECLS, but my guess is that the answer will be keep firing until you run out of bullets and are certain that the target is neutralized. Plus adrenalin.

      The law, of course, does not require a measured response. But it also doesn’t require the cops to keep pumping bullets into him until their guns run dry either.

        1. David Woycechowsky

          What does “threat stops” mean in this context? Death certificate from county coroner? Something else? What exactly?

          I read policemen comments to the effect of: “shoot to kill is not the same as shoot until the threat stops.” Do you think that tere is some kind of meaningful difference between “shoot to kill” and “shoot until threat stops,” ECLS?

          1. ExCop-LawStudent

            “Threat stops” in this situation means that Powell is no longer coming at the officers with a knife.

            And yes, I think there is a definite difference between an officer intending to kill someone and an officer forced to take action to stop a threat. It is the intention of the officer.

            Had I been in the 2d officer’s position, I might have tried to hit the subjects pelvic girdle to immobilize him. But I’m am (or was – I don’t practice like I used to) an extremely good shot. I certainly would not expect a normal officer to try that shot, especially with the short distance involved.

            1. RKTlaw

              I would suggest terming this shooting “justifiable” shows no real appreciation for the definition of that word. Is it within police parameters, such that it makes them feel safe? Clearly, based on the responses above of the gentleman who was a crack shot and possesses superior reaction skills. Does that make it “justifiable”? Hardly. View that video as many times as you like. Those officers were not there to diffuse a situation. It appears never to have crossed their minds.

  8. Andrew Stevens

    I think I’m now reasonably convinced that we need to raise physical fitness standards for the police and that they should not be routinely carrying guns. Hospital orderlies in a mental hospital would have had no difficulty subduing this guy without anyone getting hurt, but even good cops seem to think the police here did the right thing.

    Which means something has gone badly wrong with standard U.S. policing. And part of the problem is that their guns actually make things more dangerous for the officers and especially for members of the public. Why the United States tolerates this kind of Third World policing I honestly have no idea.

    I was a third shift convenience store clerk for a decade back in the day. This is a far more dangerous job than being a cop and I routinely dealt with drunks and the mentally ill. I did it without a gun, without treating everybody who walked through the door as a potential threat, and without constantly nattering on about what a dangerous job I had and how I was “on the front lines.” I don’t have any serious doubt I could have talked this guy down – I did similarly on dozens of occasions and only got assaulted twice (neither seriously). I’ll grant that I’m unusually sensitive and sympatico with the mentally ill; I grew up with a schizophrenic father, but the cops didn’t even try. They just came out of the car with their guns drawn and barked orders at him.

    I would understand if they needed to wait until six more cops (and perhaps a psychologist) arrived before they felt safe enough to try talking him down – I do get that cops are trained nowadays to be near complete cowards, but surely just about any tactic would have been superior to what they actually did. Can’t we at least agree on that?

  9. Paul The Cab Driver

    This just goes to prove that if you ever are lucky enough to record a police interaction like this, it is always best to release your footage AFTER the cops have made their statements. And never ever surrender your camera to the cops.

  10. awp

    Re: Fubar’s long analysis of what should have happened above.

    Unfortunately your response is meaningless in the state of the world today. Just look at the justification and consequences for raids.

    1) Police “must” practice dynamic entry for petty raids in order to surprise and confuse the occupants of the structure.
    2) Despite their surprise and confusion (as intended) occupants should know that the armed gunmen busting down the door are police and immediately fall face first on the ground hands out
    3) Any other action could present a possible danger to the officers and justify protection of self or others

    So if we often see “justified” shootings were the police policy creates the immediate danger, why should we expect this to be an un”justified” shooting, even if the uncalculated actions of the officer’s are what created the immediate danger?

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