ST. LOUIS – A 25-year-old man armed with a knife is dead after two police officers shot him in north St. Louis.
Chief Sam Dotson with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department says at 12:20 p.m. officers received a call for a disturbance in the area of Riverview Boulevard and McLaran Avenue.
Police said Kajieme Powell entered a nearby convenience store and walked out carrying two energy drinks.
Police identified Powell as the suspect Tuesday night.
The store owner asked him to stop, but let him walk out the door. Dotson says a few minutes later the Powell came back inside the store, took a package of pastries, and started to walk back outside.
According to Dotson, the store owner followed the Powell out of the store and asked him to pay for the items. He said Powell threw the pastries into the street, and the store owner called police.
Dotson says several witnesses, including a St. Louis alderman, watched as Powell acted erratically. They told police he was armed with a knife, pacing up and down the street, and talking to himself.
When police arrived, they said Powell walked toward them clutching his waistband. They say he then pulled out a knife and held it up in what Dotson described as an "overhand grip."
The officers, who were still in the patrol vehicle, say Powell yelled, "Shoot me now, kill me now." The police officers yelled at Powell to drop the knife, but Dotson says Powell did not respond to verbal commands. Witnesses say they heard police giving verbal commands to Powell to drop the knife.
Dotson says one officer got out of the patrol car, and when Powell displayed his knife, the officers drew their weapons.
According to Dotson, Powell walked toward the officer still sitting in the patrol car, and when he moved between three and four feet from the vehicle holding the knife, both officers fired their weapons, striking him. The officers are identified as a 25-year-old man with 3.2 years of service and a 31-year-old man with 2.6 years of service.
Dotson says police are checking to see if there is any surveillance video of the incident.
The knife was recovered at the scene.
When Dotson was asked if he believes the shooting was justified, he said his officers "have the right to go home at night" and that every officer has the right to defend themselves and the community.
Powell was pronounced dead at the scene, which is located approximately four miles from the unrest in Ferguson.
Within an hour of the shooting, a crowd had gathered in the area, chanting "Hands up! Don't shoot!"
Alderman Antonio French told NewsChannel 5 he has talked to the community gathering at the scene and reminded them this isn't Ferguson, and implored them not to act violently.
Dotson talked to the crowd, and French says Dotson answered questions and told them it will be a quick investigation.
French says tensions are high since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson. He has reminded the gathering crowd that this isn't Ferguson, and there's no need for violence. He says the scene was processed quickly and officers respected the suspect's body.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay told NewsChannel 5's Casey Nolen during a live interview Tuesday he's aware this is a sensitive situation and emotions are high. Law enforcement is attempting to contact the suspect's family.
Slay said it's important the investigation is transparent and the community is confident in police.
"We're going to make sure this is handled right," said Slay. He went on to say there appears to be no relation between Tuesday's shooting and the unrest in Ferguson.
Dotson says since the unrest started, SLMPD officers moved to 12-hour work days to maximize resources. They also created a plan that would allow SLMPD officers to continue supporting efforts in Ferguson if something happened in the City of St. Louis.
He also defended the officers' actions, say tasers are not always effective. He said they used deadly force because a suspect with a knife within three or four feet of the officers is considered a lethal range.
The officers are on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, which is standard procedure.
Dotson and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay spoke again to the press late Tuesday night trying to assure citizens the shooting would be investigated thoroughly and transparently.
"The crowd tonight, the reaction there was measured and mostly calm," said Slay around 9:30 p.m. "And I think that's because we had a lot of police out there. They were also using a lighter touch. And we also made sure we're getting the information to them as we get it in a responsible manner."
In addition, Slay sent workers with SLATE (St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment) to the neighborhood where one of the topics the chanting crowd brought up was the availability of jobs.
The Mayor says SLATE workers signed up more than 80 people for job training near the site of Tuesday's police involved shooting.