Police said he had approached officers brandishing a knife and failed to comply with their orders to drop it. The officers opened fire and Payton was struck.
But a witness to the incident took issue Saturday with the police account.
“That story they are telling is unbelievable,” said the witness, a neighborhood resident who declined to be identified by name. “They didn’t have any business shooting that many times.” ( Television footage from the scene indicated that as many as 36 individual pieces of evidence had been flagged.)
The witness said officers were on one side of the street and Payton on the other when he paused. “He was nowhere near them,” the witness added.
“I guess they assumed he was still going to come toward them.” At some point, the witness said, Payton, who lived in the neighborhood, had dropped the knife. But the witness was unable to say just when he had dropped it.
In a statement issued Saturday, police said officers were sent to 4th Street about 5:45 p.m. in response to a report of threats to do bodily harm.
On arrival, the statement said, the officers encountered a man with a knife who came toward them wielding it.
After he was shot, Payton was taken by rescue personnel to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.
They said the department is investigating the incident. All cases in which officers use deadly force are investigated as a matter of routine.
The witness who spoke Saturday said Payton had been involved in a dispute with his girlfriend, who ultimately called police.
The two “had some words,” the witness said, and “he was real upset.”
The witness said Payton was a graduate of Ballou High School who was dealing with mental challenges.
“He had a good heart,” the witness said. “He really did.”