Today St. Louis police shot a man with a knife. He had been acting erratically, police showed up, he raised the knife and said shoot me now, so they did. Read more about it here.
The officers ordered the man to get down, according to Dotson. The man, 23, became more agitated and walked toward them, reaching for his waistband. Witnesses told police the man was yelling “Shoot me, kill me now,” during the encounter.
The officers drew their weapons and ordered the man to stop. He did stop, but then pulled out a knife and came at the officers with it held up high, Dotson said. They ordered him to stop and drop the knife. When he got within two or three feet of the officers, they fired, killing the man.
“This is a lethal range for a knife,” Dotson said.
Several in the crowd asked why police did not use tasers to bring down the subject. Dotson said police officers have the right to defend themselves when an agitated man is coming at them with a knife. Said the chief, “Officers have a reasonable expectation to go home at the end of their shift.”
Here are some early thoughts. This is another case of police shooting a black man in St. Louis. The intersection with disability, though, is where I want to focus now.
Could a real journalist on the ground ask Dotson about Crisis Intervention Team training (CIT) in St. Louis. Did these officers have it? Do any officers in the area have it. Do the officers understand that there are techniques for addressing mental illness-related situations that do not involve shooting. I wrote about some of them with Lawrence Carter-Long here.
A man at close range with a knife justifies the use of lethal force. These officers will quickly get off paid leave and go back to work. But note the situation. The officers say, “Stop.” Man with psychatric disability hoping to get killed by police does not stop. So the officers say, “Stop.” The only way out is death. The only path to life is not to draw your weapons and advance.
I don’t know all the details, yet, but I’d very much like to know about the disability aspects here. Because here’s a tweet from a USAToday journalist:
Eyewitness says people on the street were screaming to police officers that the man killed had mental health problems.
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) August 19, 2014
The officers have the right not to be stabbed and to use lethal force. What they also have the right to do, if no one else was in jeopardy, is to take a different approach to a known mental health situation.