Circuit Attorney’s Office
City of St. Louis
Shooting Death of Kajieme Powell
On August 19, 2014, at approximately 12:15 p.m., Kajieme Powell went into a convenience store in the 8700 block of Riverview Blvd. in the Baden neighborhood of the City of St. Louis. Two clerks observed Powell leave the store with two energy drinks and place the drinks on the curb. Powell then returned to the store and took a snack item. He did not pay for any of the items and did not have permission to take the items without paying. Powell exited the store and began pacing outside and threatening people around him. Three 911 calls were made for police to respond to the scene.
A person present at the time of the shooting recorded a portion of the events leading up to the shooting, the shooting itself and a portion of the aftermath.
Prior to their arrival at the scene, the responding officers received information that the man was armed with two knives. Upon their arrival, the officers observed Powell to match the description of the person with the knives. Several witnesses saw a knife in Powell’s possession, including the officers who arrived on scene.
At approximately 12:28 p.m., Powell was shot and killed by two on-duty St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) officers (Officers 1 and 2). Officer 1 told investigators he removed the knife from Powell’s hand after the shooting. An approximately nine inch-long, wood-handled and metal-bladed knife was photographed on scene and taken into evidence. The knife recovered from the scene was swabbed for DNA. The swab of apparent blood from both the blade and the handle matched Powell’s DNA profile.
An area business owner, the convenience store clerk and several other witnesses saw the events leading up to the shooting and the shooting itself.
According to the City of St. Louis Medical Examiner’s report, there were 13 entrance wounds and five exit wounds on Powell’s body. One of the entrance wounds on the upper left arm was likely a re-entry wound, meaning a bullet entered, exited and then re-entered Powell’s body. The medical examiner determined that four of the shots would have been fatal eventually. The medical examiner, however, concluded that none of the shots would have been immediately fatal and that Powell could still have been moving after he was on the ground.
The role of the CAO is to review the evidence and determine if a violation
of Missouri law occurred.
A team of prosecutors and other CAO staff thoroughly reviewed the video recording made by a witness, including thousands of frame-by-frame still images from that video. They also reviewed police reports, medical examiner reports, laboratory reports, ballistics reports, 911 calls, dispatch calls and a 3-D spatial analysis rendering conducted by a third party in addition to the 3-D written report following the analysis. They conducted 12 interviews and made numerous attempts to gain further statements and information necessary to complete their investigation.
To pursue criminal prosecution, prosecutors must have the evidence to prove a crime occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, in this case, prosecutors considered the following issues:
Did either Officer 1 or Officer 2 commit a crime under Missouri law, and if so, can the crime be proven beyond a reasonable doubt?
To answer this question, prosecutors reviewed applicable Missouri criminal statutes, including those for homicide. Three specific Missouri laws emerged as critically relevant to the case: those laws governing a person’s ability to act in lawful self-defense, a person’s ability to act in defense of others and an officer’s authority to use deadly force when making an arrest.
Prosecutors therefore conclude that, under the law, Officer 1’s deadly force was a legal act of self-defense. Prosecutors further conclude that Officer 2’s deadly force was a legal act to protect Officer 1. Section 563.063 authorizes the use of force in defense of others, including deadly force, where appropriate. Though acting as law enforcement officers at the time, had either Officer 1 or Officer 2 been acting in any other capacity, or simply walking down the street when Powell approached them in this manner, both would still have been legally justified in using deadly force.
While the laws of self-defense and defense of others are most pertinent to this particular set of facts and circumstances, prosecutors also reviewed whether or not the officers had the ability to use deadly force in making an arrest.
Shortly after Officer 1 and Officer 2 arrived on scene, they observed Powell openly displaying a knife in an angry or threatening manner. Under the law, this conduct would constitute the crime of Unlawful Use of Weapon-Exhibiting, a Class D felony. By advancing upon the officers, Powell could also have been committing the offense of Second-Degree Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer, a Class C felony. The officers, therefore, would have had legal justification to arrest Powell.
Under Missouri law, police officers may use deadly force to make an arrest when they reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to make the arrest and they also reasonably believe that the person being arrested may endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.
As is their role, prosecutors must only determine if a violation of criminal law occurred. Given the available facts, video, witness statements, physical and forensic evidence, and for the reasons outlined in the discussion of the official report, prosecutors have determined a criminal violation against either officer could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, charges will not be filed in this case.