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Amid The Chaos In Ferguson, Another Police Shooting


Allow peace to settle in. That's the plea from leaders in Ferguson, Missouri today. They released a statement pledging action in response to more than a week of unrest there. We'll hear in this part of the program about life in Ferguson where schools have yet to open.

And amid the attention on that suburb of St. Louis, in the big city itself there was another police shooting today. Authorities say officers shot and killed a man who was brandishing a knife. St. Louis Public Radio reporter Stephanie Lecci joins us now to tell us about that story. And Stephanie, does this appear related at all to the events in Ferguson?

STEPHANIE LECCI, BYLINE: It does not. This seemed to be an isolated incident where police were responding to an individual who appeared to be acting erratically and perhaps was unstable.

SIEGEL: So what do we know about what happened in St. Louis today in this shooting?

LECCI: Well, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson says two officers were responding to calls from a convenience store owner who says the suspect, who was a 23-year-old African-American, had taken items from his store and was then out in the street pacing up and down acting erratically and was armed with a knife. Officers also received another call from a St. Louis alderwoman reporting also that the individual was in the street, again, pacing erratically, armed and talking to himself. At that point, the two officers in one car responded to these calls and approached the suspect. They exited their vehicles. Chief Dotson says that at that point they did not have their weapons drawn and were trying to speak with the individual when he grabbed at his waistband and then pulled out a knife in what Dotson described as an overhand grip.

He began telling the officers, shoot me now. Kill me now. And the officers then began giving him verbal warnings. When they saw the knife they had drawn their weapons he said they began telling the man get back, drop the weapon, stop. The man did not comply, and when he came within three to four feet of one of the officers, Dotson says, it was at that point that both officers fired, killing the suspect.

SIEGEL: Well, has there been any criticism of the use of lethal force - for example for not using a Taser or something like that to subdue the man?

LECCI: Chief Dotson says officers do have tasers, but he defended their actions saying that, you know, at the end of the day, an officer should be able to go home. And if a person is charging you with a knife, and they're within three to four feet, that's within lethal range. He also said that one witness to the events described it as a suicide-by-cop situation.

SIEGEL: This happened in broad daylight. I assume there were multiple witnesses of the entire event.

LECCI: Yes, and they're still being interviewed by police.

SIEGEL: OK, thank you, Stephanie.

LECCI: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: Stephanie Lecci is a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.