ST. LOUIS • Kajieme Powell’s grandmother has said she believes police murdered her grandson. St. Louis police have said the two city officers who fatally shot Powell last year committed no crime.
On Wednesday — the one-year anniversary of Powell’s death —his grandmother, relatives and supporters renewed demands for charges against the two officers.
“Even though it’s been a year, it’s still hard,” Mildred Powell said Wednesday in a gathering at Kiener Plaza. “It’s still hard on the whole family.”
The group then released 23 black helium balloons into the air, meant to symbolize the 23 seconds it took for the officers to get out of their police SUV on Aug. 19, 2014, order Kajieme Powell, 25, to put down a knife and then shoot him a dozen times.
After the balloon release, protesters marched to the Carnahan Courthouse to restate calls for criminal charges and the release of the officers’ names.
St. Louis sheriff’s deputies and city police lined up in front of the courthouse as demonstrators shouted what have become familiar chants during street protests. As the protest buzzed around her, Mildred Powell stood on the courthouse steps in silence for several minutes, holding a placard with her son’s photo.
Protesters called for Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce come outside to talk. She did not come out, but told a reporter Wednesday she instead sent a staffer down to speak with Mildred Powell. Joyce said one of Mildred Powell’s lawyers rejected the offer to talk. She said numerous unsuccessful attempts have been made to talk to Powell’s grandmother.
“I’ll talk to her whenever,” Joyce said. “My objective is communication.”
Joyce said her office is still reviewing the case and needs to interview additional witnesses who recently agreed to talk to investigators. The case was first reviewed by the department’s homicide division, then separately by the department’s Force Investigative Unit. Those investigations found the shooting justified. The matter was turned over to Joyce in February.
Powell was shot after two St. Louis officers were sent to the Six Stars Market, in the 8700 block of Riverview Boulevard. Callers said a man had stolen two energy drinks and pastries. They reported he was acting erratically and had a knife.
When the officers arrived, Powell advanced at them with a knife. Each fired six shots, police said. A cellphone video shows the event at some distance, and includes the sound of Powell shouting “Shoot me! Kill me now!”
Powell had moved to St. Louis from New York City and lived with his grandmother in the 1500 block of Hornsby Avenue in St. Louis for about eight months before he was killed. His family said he finished high school in New York, attended trade school and was planning to start a heating and cooling business. His family also said he had been diagnosed with mental illness, which is why they believe the officers should have taken a different approach instead of getting out with their guns drawn.
Police Chief Sam Dotson has defended the shooting, noting that policy allows deadly force against someone threatening an officer with a knife from up to 21 feet away. Dotson has said Tasers were not an option against a potentially deadly weapon, and with Powell wearing a coat that might stop the probes.
Powell’s family filed a wrongful-death suit last fall but withdrew it and refiled it Aug. 11 after adding Kajieme Powell’s estate as a plaintiff, the family’s lawyer said.