ST. LOUIS— Two St. Louis policemen shot and killed a 25-year-old black man Tuesday just three miles south of Ferguson, Missouri, the scene of more than a week of violence and protests in the wake of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, being killed by Darren Wilson, a white local police officer on Aug. 9.
According to St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, the unidentified male initially walked out of a convenience store carrying two energy drinks when store owner asked him to stop. After exiting, he re-entered and allegedly took a package of pastries without paying for them. When he was confronted by the store’s owner he tossed the food into the street and began to walk around “erratically,” according to St. Louis police.
Another business owner contacted authorities and when officers arrived the man allegedly pulled a knife out of his waste-band in a threatening manner, and told police, “Shoot me now, kill me now, shoot me.”
The suspect reportedly did not respond to verbal commands from officers to stop and was fired upon. According to authorities, police did not have their guns drawn until the suspect refused to drop his weapon.
“Officer safety is the No. 1 issue,” Dotson said in a press conference following the incident. “I think we all can understand what’s going on in Ferguson. But I think that every police officer that’s out here has the right to defend themselves and the community,” he added.
The scene was witnessed by a local alderwoman, who notified the police, and several other onlookers.
A large group of people gathered around the residential neighborhood shortly after the shooting occurred. Members of the crowd began chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” a refrain that has become popular with protestors showing solidarity with Brown. Others directly chastised officers on the scene, calling their actions “outrageous.” City riot police in protective vests were also present.
St. Louis police were involved in crowd control in Ferguson during the first days of protest following Brown’s death.
“I think it’s important for people to understand what happened,” Dotson told reporters. An investigation is still ongoing.