More Than FergusonNewsPolice AccountabilityThe NorthSider

Database now tallies fatal police shootings here, nationwide

While the country’s collective camera was still capturing Ferguson amid the protests that followed the controversial killing of Michael Brown by a police officer, St. Louis police – in north city – shot and killed another black man. 

It was just 10 days after Brown was shot and killed. This time, the victim was Kajieme Powell, 25. He had reportedly wielded a knife toward the two officers who responded to a call that he had taken things out of a convenience store. He was later found to be schizophrenic. 

It was the type of police interaction that northsiders had come to know all too well, years before Ferguson. Weapon or no weapon, or the often, “the suspect pointed at gun.” Or not. 

The city area had seen far more police shootings than Ferguson. Some other American cities could say the same. 

At that time, however, there wasn’t a database of police-involved shootings. Now, there is. In 2015, The Washington Post starting tracking such shootings. 

And what’s scary is that fatal police shootings in the U.S. have tallied more than 960 every year from 2015 to 2018. So far this year, 519 people have been fatally shot by police.  

Since the killing of Brown, 47 people have been killed in St. Louis by police, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.  

In 2014, two people were killed by police. That number rose to six the following year, then nine the next. In 2017, a total of 18 people died at the hands of officers. So far this year, six have been killed by police, the same as last year.  

Some of the police shootings in the city have, like Brown’s killing, been met with controversy. One in particular was the police shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, 26. He was killed by then-St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley in 2011. 

Stockley’s acquittal in 2017, too, set off protests.  

“It’s almost as if they join the police force to kill us,” said Rufus Roddy, who was discussing the Michael Brown anniversary with friends in the Greater Ville neighborhood. “When was the last time you heard of a police using a taser?”

“Man, they been killing us since slavery and haven’t stopped,” Chris Smith said. 

“We encourage citizens to follow directions given by officers at every scene,” said Evita Caldwell, SLMPD information officer, explaining in a statement what can keep officers from using deadly force. 

As for using optional methods of protection, the statement said: “Officers will use the least amount of force reasonably necessary to accomplish their lawful objective while safeguarding their own lives and the lives of others. Deadly force will be a last resort, and will only be exercised when all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or appear impractical.” 

Powell’s mother, Kim, argued that that wasn’t what happened in his fatal shooting. In 2017, she sued the officers and then-police Chief Sam Dotson and the city of St. Louis in a wrongful death suit, according to Courthouse News Service

The officers were named as Nicholas Shelton and Ellis Brown in the suit. They were not charged criminally by then-Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce. 

Powell attorney Jermaine Wooten summed up the shooting and killing of the mentally ill suspect to the news service. 

“I think it’s pretty clear that they had a number of options rather than pulling out their guns and start shooting. They had their vehicle as defense; they could have pepper sprayed him. There were a number of citizens out there who didn’t feel any threat from Mr. Powell. They were out there laughing and videotaping him.”

Wrapping up his position, he said, “It was perfectly clear that they were dealing with someone with a mental illness. They had a call about someone wielding a knife. They should have pre-planned on how to deal with the situation. They clearly did not.” 

Bill Beene Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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