Police in Berkeley, Missouri, shot and killed a black man late Tuesday night. The shooting occurred at a Mobil On The Run gas station in the mostly-black St. Louis suburb, located within five miles of the Ferguson street on which unarmed black teen Michael Brown was shot by police in August. Video of the incident has surfaced which shows the victim, identified as 18-year-old Antonio Martin, raising a pistol toward the white officer, who then opened fire. News of the shooting prompted a breakout of violence overnight.
The officer involved in the shooting has been with the Berkeley Police Department for six years. He arrived at the gas station at approximately 11:15 p.m. to investigate a report of a theft. After exiting his car to speak to two men near the side of the building, one raised his arm and pointed a loaded 9mm gun at the officer. The officer then removed his own firearm and stepped backward before firing three times. One bullet hit Martin, another was discovered in a tire on the police car and the last bullet has not been found. Paramedics called to the scene pronounced Martin dead. The man with Martin fled the scene during the moments following the shooting.
According to St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, roughly 250 people gathered at the gas station after news of the shooting broke. About 50 officers were present at the scene, and two of them were targets of fireworks thrown by the crowd. Some of the protesters gathered threw bricks. As the scene became calm on Wednesday morning, four police officers had been hurt and four of the protesters gathered had been arrested for assault.
The mayor of Berkeley, who is black, was quick to make a distinction between the case of Brown and other unarmed black men killed by police and the suspect shot overnight, who was brandishing a gun. During a news conference, Mayor Theodore Hoskins said that no police officer in his city is “going out half-cocked,” and added that the majority of Berkeley’s police force are black themselves. He added that the Berkeley shooting was in no way similar to the shooting of Brown.
Martin’s mother, Toni Martin, spoke with reporters at the scene of the shooting, saying her son did not have a gun on him, and that he was simply going to see his girlfriend when he was shot. Martin’s gun was recovered at the scene.
Although the officer involved had recently been outfitted with a body camera, he was not wearing it on Tuesday night. Hoskins said that it is understandable because the body camera program was still so new. He added that in the future, as the program is more established, officers who do not use the body cameras will be disciplined. The officer’s car was also equipped with a dashboard camera, which was turned off at the time of the shooting.
The identity of the officer who fired the shots has not been named by officials, but he has been placed on administrative leave. Police are looking for the second man, who was with Martin when the shooting occurred.
By Jennifer Pfalz
Photo by Matt – License