Tensions mounted in a St. Louis suburb Wednesday morning, after a Berkeley, Missouri police officer fatally shot an 18-year-old black man who pointed a handgun at him late Tuesday. Following the shooting, the dozens of protesters that descended onto the scene clashed with local officials.
In a Wednesday morning news conference, St. Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar said a Berkeley police officer responded to a call about a theft at a gas station. During a routine business check at around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, the officer approached two men at the gas station. While the officer questioned the two men, one of them pulled and pointed a gun at him, Belmar said. In response, the officer fired three shots, one of which hit the gunman. Another hit the tire of a police car. The gunman did not fire any shots.
“Fearing for his life, the Berkeley officer fired several shots, striking the subject, fatally wounding him,” the St. Louis County police had said in a previous statement.
The second man fled the scene, and officials have recovered a “defaced” 9mm gun at the scene. Belmar confirmed that the victim was black and the officer white, 34 years old, and a six-year veteran of the department. He added that the victim was “known to law enforcement.”
Belmar said the officer did not wear his issued body camera and did not defer to a taser first, adding that “bad choices were made.” Belmar said the dash cam on the officer’s vehicle wasn’t also activated to capture the unfolding events.
Police also released surveillance footage that captured the moments before the shooting, saying that it showed a man raising his gun at the officer, although the grainy quality of the footage makes it difficult to confirm.
Video by St. Louis County police.
Although local police have not identified the man, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Toni Martin at the scene said he was her son, Antonio Martin.
Martin’s mother told the Post-Dispatch that her son was with his girlfriend when the shooting occurred.
A couple hundred protesters gathered at the scene, eventually resulting in a scuttle with police. Belmar said bricks were thrown at the officers. And a video circulating on social media appears to be a firework ignited at the gas station, although it’s not certain who set it off.
Video by Associated Press.
Nearby, the death of Michael Brown threw Ferguson into weeks of unrest. When a grand jury announced in November its decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson, who opened fire on Brown, largely nonviolent protests turned violent.
A New York grand jury’s decision in December to not charge a police officer in the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner sparked further protests.
Recent police shootings that resulted in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, among others, have prompted calls for closer examination of police force against civilians.