The killing of Kajieme Powell: “a good shoot” is an oxymoron

I received the following note on Facebook:

“Bro. Asa, I’m also distressed about the recent killing of Kajieme Powell. I understand Police having to protect themselves but this young man was acting erratically and after viewing the video ; it looked like “suicide by cop”. Are the cadets trained on how to disarm someone acting in a bizarre manner who is probably mentally ill without killing him. One officer years ago told me that you can drop someone by shooting them in the legs/knees/arms. He’s never had to kill anyone. They cuffed this young man and it was clear that he was down and unable to attack anyone. I guess I’m wondering given your law enforcement expertise; (when you have the time) if you can address these issues on your blog. I also understand the precariousness of doing so given your profession. I would like to see more Officers with the intelligence, common sense and expertise of Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson! I feel like you do. Thanks for hearing me out!”

My reply:

Dear Sis. Carolyn,

Like you I’m also distressed by the “executing” of our Black men and boys by the police.

As a Black man, a Black father of a young Black son and a Black police officer, I have a certain… maybe even an “unique” perspective… into these situations. However, I made a conscious decision to not do a blog post, so as to add to the deluge of intellectualized placebos from all quarters, which only real and lasting accomplishment is to further desensitize our society to the genocide being committed against those of African descent… those with black and brown skins… worldwide. The Word states that “there is nothing new under the sun”. It’s all been said, discussed and debated before, as well as now. The truth is that whether it’s 1614, 1714, 1814, 1914 or 2014, the terrorism that is white supremacy continues to be unleashed upon us, ironically even more so under the administration of the first USA “black” President and his “black” Attorney General.

However, as you are my sister and I know of the sincerity of your empathy, I will offer my “two cents” to you… to spend as you wish.

In the Kajieme Powell incident, what compounds the situation was the fact that he was mentally and emotionally disturbed. I don’t know about Kajieme’s personal history, but I do know that in an effort to reduce health care costs, there is a trend to release those with mental and emotional problems into society, when they actually should be in facilities that are adept in treating their conditions, or at least monitoring and stabilizing it with medication. They are being released into the custody of those who do love them, but aren’t capable in handling their conditions if it deteriorates. It then more often than not, becomes a police problem. However, police officers aren’t trained to be psychologists. Simply put: we’re trained to eliminate a threat with extreme prejudice… which means different things to different police officers. As a police officer in Canada, we’re specifically trained that when you’re dealing with someone who is mentally and emotionally disturbed, who is armed and making threats, including asking to be killed by the police, you’re dealing with one of the most erratic, irrational and dangerous situations you will ever face as a police officer. From what I know, this training is similar in the USA. Regardless of one’s training, the response to these situations is ultimately made by the individual officer(s). This response would be influenced by a number of factors such as the officer’s upbringing, how he/she is socialized and their resulting prejudices; their views on race, class, gender; as well as their own physical, mental and emotional abilities, capabilities and shortcomings, etc.

Looking at the video, it is my belief that other interventions could have been utilized before the decision to shoot and kill Kajieme became the final solution. Disengage, back up, contact family members, his social worker or mental health specialist etc, to speak with him. Get some police shields (from Ferguson) and rush him with an officer prepared to discharge a Taser to incapacitate him. I don’t want to be a “Monday morning arm chair quarterback” because I wasn’t there, but from what I can deduce from this situation, these are some of the options I personally would attempt or discuss with my fellow officers, before deciding that I had no other choice but to shoot and kill him. However, based on the training they (and I) have received, this would be classified as a justifiable, legal response to this situation… i.e., “a good shoot”. It is my opinion that any shooting by a police officer that takes the life of an individual, whatever the circumstances, certainly should be viewed as a tragedy for all parties involved. A “good shoot” is therefore an oxymoron.


As a “black” police officer, I’m so proud of Captain Ron Johnson and how he is handling the crisis in Ferguson. I understand and  empathize with the trials, tribulations, as well as the emotions he’s going through. He’s in a tough position as most people… both white and black… want him for their own self interests, to fail in bringing some peace and order to the community… a community he grew up in. It’s bad enough that his (white) superiors and (white) colleagues have been pulling stunts to undermine him every step of the way, but that’s expected. What annoys me most are the pseudo-intellectual, wanna-be black revolutionary social media activists, sitting in the safety of their homes, in their comfortable swivel arm chairs in-front of a computer, discrediting and referring to him as an “uncle tom”, “sellout”, “token” and “stooge of the white man sent to pacify the negroes”.

What these pseudo-intellectual, wanna-be black revolutionary social media activists don’t understand, which I do, is that Captain Johnson is the shepherd keeping the wolves at bay, who are more than ready, willing and able… and are only waiting for the right opportunity to slaughter their prey. Believe me, I know of what I speak. I’ve been in policing situations where my presence and forceful intervention in certain situations, have prevented the shooting and possible death of a Black male, as well as saved some of them from being criminalized for minor indiscretions. What these pseudo-intellectual, wanna-be black revolutionary social media activists fail to realize, which I do, is that the military equipment deployed against the peaceful protesters was not a show of force, but a use of force. It was only by the grace of God that one of the trigger happy cops didn’t start shooting into the protesters, which would have caused a conditioned natural chain reaction by the other cops to start shooting too. It would have resulted into another Sharpeville massacre. Believe me, I know of what I speak. I was on a tactical emergency task force. The reason these same pseudo-intellectual, wanna-be black revolutionary social media activists want Captain Johnson to fail, why they not so secretly welcome the slaughter of innocents, is the simple fact that it will provide the needed fodder for their next Facebook, Twitter and blog rhetoric and posts, which will undoubtedly bring more “hits” and notoriety to their sites.

Let me share an article with you about the shooting and killing of a mentally and emotionally disturbed teenager in Toronto, Canada by a police officer: “The Killing of Sammy Yatim”. It’s very informative on a number of different levels. First it shows the similarities in police training, in Canada and the USA, at handling these types of situations. More importantly, the article humanizes both the victim and the officer. Too often the media, particularly social media, demonizes and dehumanizes those they see as their adversaries. We need to always remember that both are human beings with families who suffer in their own way.

Let me also share with you a post I did in 2009 entitled: “A day of blogging for Justice – Standing up against the pre-trial electrocution”. It speaks for itself and further addresses your questions.

Finally I’ll end with the words of our musical prophets Bob Marley and Peter Tosh:

God continue to bless you my sister and provide you with the wisdom you’re ever seeking.


“The Progressive War on Truth Claims Another Victim” By Stacy Washington

Op-ed submission by Project 21

Sean Bergin is the latest casualty in the progressive War on Truth.

Bergin, a reporter for News 12, a regional television station in New York and New Jersey, interviewed the widow of a criminal shot and killed by police. Lawrence Campbell, who was black, stabbed and stole a gun from a Walgreens security guard that he then used to murder a rookie Jersey City police officer, Melvin Santiago. The shooter’s widow was unrepentant, wishing on camera that “he had taken more cops with him.”  She later apologized.

After Bergin reported the station was “besieged” with complaints from angry police officers for airing the interview footage, he said on-air: “It’s important to shine a light on this anti-cop mentality that has so contaminated America’s inner cities, the underlying cause of all of this, of course, young black men growing up without fathers.” News 12 promptly suspended and demoted Bergin, cutting his reporting to once a week. Bergin quit. The veracity of Bergin’s statement is not in question. News 12 declined to comment on a “personnel issue.”

Why was he suspended? Is it because a white broadcaster said it? Perhaps it was because Bergin’s statement is true: black boys are born to single-parent homes at an alarming rate – 80 percent by the latest data. That parental absence is considered a key factor in later criminality. Silencing anyone daring to speak openly and honestly about it doesn’t help the pervasiveness of wrong thinking in inner cities. It actually helps keep inner city blacks down and the purveyors of said failed policies firmly in power.

Perhaps News 12 has a genuine aversion to commentary mixed with the news. A more likely reason, however, is they don’t want to offend black viewers who know the truth, but don’t want it stated publicly by a white man. This aversion to hearing the truth based on who says it is immature and detrimental to solving very real societal ills, especially when they are plaguing inner-city communities at an ever-increasing and alarming rate.

Once we get past the political correctness that’s killing open dialogue, we can reattach the stigma that deterred women from having babies out of wedlock. If men knew they would be on the hook for every single child they fathered, they would be more careful. As it is, the out-of-wedlock birthrate in the black community already more than doubles whites. It wasn’t always this way, but Great Society welfare programs and the proliferation of abortion propelled us to this place.

Ending the lives of the unborn is not the answer. Abortion rates for black women are triple that of whites. Why not talk about that and admit government-directed solutions are not working and destroying the communities they purport to help? Welfare reform is another casualty of the War on Truth. Government actually pays women to keep fathers out of the home, destabilizing entire neighborhoods and removing the incentive for single men to seek employment and strive for success.

Why was mentioning the epidemic of black fatherlessness and its relation to rising criminality enough to get Bergin suspended? With News 12’s refusal to respond, viewers may never know. Perhaps if Bergin placed the blame on whites or so-called one-percenters, they would’ve been acceptable.

Kudos to Bergin for telling the truth, but why should he stand alone? Why don’t more broadcasters return to their first love of the pursuit of the truth? Viewers are hungry for it, ratings would benefit from it and it would remove the shield of lies protecting people from horrible choices. But the truth doesn’t suit the narrative of ever-bigger government, more deficits and more failed government intrusion. Shielding individuals making horrible life choices is an insult to those who dedicate their lives to the service and defense of others, namely the late Melvin Santiago.

What message does it send that there was a memorial to the drugged-out felon who took Santiago’s life? Worse still, what does it say that Bergin was suspended for calling out the truth about this killer and the environment that produced him? As a nation, we must reward the truth-tellers among us. If we don’t, our need for them will only increase. May their voices never become feeble.

Stacy Washington is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network.

The Caine Prize for African Writing 2014

2014_oduor_home_newThe Caine Prize for African Writing is awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere, reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition. The first prize was awarded in 2000 at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair 2000 in Harare and it’s usually awarded every July. This year’s winner is Kenya’s Okwiri Oduor for her short story entitled: “My Father’s Head” from Feast, Famine and Potluck (Short Story Day Africa, South Africa, 2013).

The other 4 shortlisted entries for this year were:

  1. Diane Awerbuck (South Africa) “Phosphorescence” in Cabin Fever (Umuzi, Cape Town. 2011)
  2. Efemia Chela (Ghana/Zambia) “Chicken” in Feast, Famine and Potluck (Short Story Day Africa, South Africa. 2013)
  3. Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe) “The Intervention” in Open Road Review, issue 7, New Delhi. 2013
  4. Billy Kahora (Kenya) “The Gorilla’s Apprentice” in Granta (London. 2010)


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