Late Tuesday night a white police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old black male after an interaction at a gas station in Berkeley, Missouri. The police officer has claimed that the young man, identified as Antonio Martin, pointed a loaded gun at him during a conversation. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar held a press conference early Wednesday morning to discuss the shooting and release surveillance video from the gas station.
Per Belmar, the officer had pulled up to the gas station around 11:15 PM local time to investigate a call. He spoke with Martin and another unidentified person after pulling into parking lot. After a short period of time, Martin turned away from the officer and then turned back with a gun in his hand. The officer stepped back and tripped as he reached for his gun. He fired three shots at Martin, hitting him once. It does not appear that Martin fired his weapon.
By the time EMS appeared on the scene, Martin was dead from his injuries. A weapon was retrieved at the scene and the police are stating this is the weapon Martin brandished. It appears that the weapon, a 9 mm pistol, was stolen as the serial number had been filed off. Besides the video that police released showing the events that led to the shooting, police state that there is additional video that will be released to the public shortly. The video that was released Wednesday morning stops right at the point where the officer shoots Martin.
Below is the surveillance video, courtesy of KMOV:
Shortly after the shooting, while police gathered and EMS crews arrived, people from the surrounding neighborhoods started arriving. Berkely is a small suburb just outside of St. Louis and next to Ferguson, where Michael Brown was shot and killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in August. Martin’s mother, Toni Martin, showed up and confirmed that it was her son that was killed. Eventually, at least 200 people showed up at the Mobil gas station to protest the shooting and demand answers from police.
Later on in the evening, some in the crowd started scuffling with police and four were arrested. Some type of explosive was used by someone in the crowd near a gas pump. It appeared to be a large firework, but it caused quite a commotion and led to one officer being injured as he twisted his knee trying to run away. Another officer was hurt after getting hit with a rock that was thrown from the crowd. However, while there was some skirmishes, and a nearby gas station was vandalized a bit, the commotion settled down relatively quickly and, by the time Belmar and the Berkeley chief arrived, police were able to speak to the crowd and answer questions.
While the information supplied by Belmar on Wednesday morning suggests that the shooting was justified and the officer acted appropriately, many on the scene and in the area have a number of questions regarding the tragic incident. One thing that came up during the press conference is the officer was not wearing a body camera. Apparently, he was given the camera earlier in the evening but did not put it on his uniform. Also, the car’s dash camera did not turn on as it is set to operate only when the vehicle’s red lights are turned on.
Also, due to the lack of trust with area law enforcement, a number of activists and protesters are questioning the story from Belmar and the video evidence that has been presented. As of the time of publication, the video that was released came from a far away camera. Therefore, a number of people are wondering if Martin really had a gun in his hand and if it is possible that the police planted a gun at the scene after the fact. They’d prefer to see clearer video from a closer vantage point.
— Dr. Cornel Fresh (@WyzeChef) December 24, 2014
I don’t accept that a black teen would pull a gun on a cop at close range OR the cop’s easiest course of action was to kill a teen who did. — Sean Jordan (@seanjjordan) December 24, 2014
Protesters also displayed anger over a police officer at the scene laughing at them. They obviously saw this as completely inappropriate due to the tragedy that had just unfolded.
A cop is literally laughing in our face right now. There is nothing but anger in pain #Ferguson
— KayRay (@RE_invent_ED) December 24, 2014
This is a developing story and more information will be released in the subsequent hours and days.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).