(Updated at 2:55 p.m., Wed., Dec. 24 with additional surveillance video)
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St. Louis County police are investigating another fatal officer-involved shooting in north St. Louis County.
A six-year veteran of the Berkeley police department shot and killed 18-year-old Antonio Martin in the parking lot of a Mobil gas station around 11:15 p.m., Tuesday night, after Martin allegedly pointed a gun at the officer. The unnamed officer was responding to a call at the station. Martin is black, and the officer is white.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar provided the following account at a 7 a.m. news conference:
- The officer, in full uniform and driving a marked car, responded to a call about a theft. Belmar said it's not yet clear if the theft happened at the Mobil, or elsewhere.
- The officer stepped out of his car to talk to two individuals. Martin pulled a 9 mm Hi-Point pistol and pointed it at the officer across the hood of the car.
- The officer fired his weapon. Belmar said there were at least three shots. One struck Martin, one cannot be accounted for, and one went into the tire of the police car as the officer was falling backward.
- The second individual fled the scene. Belmar said police are looking to talk to him. Two bystanders also witnessed the shooting
- Belmar briefed St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch around 3:30 a.m. An assistant prosecutor has been assigned to the case.
- A crowd of about 200 to 300 gathered at the gas station. Belmar said some in the crowd threw rocks and explosive devices. Four people were arrested for assault on a law enforcement officer. Two police officers were injured.
"These are nothing but tragedies," Belmar said. "This is a family right now that regardless of the decisions that this individual made are without a family member at this Christmas season. This is also a tragedy for the police officer. He will carry the weight of this for the rest of this, certainly for the rest of his career. There are no winners here."
Berkeley mayor Theodore Hoskins said his police department will be conducting its own investigation into the shooting. But, he said, his initial review of the surveillance video from the gas station led him to agree with Belmar that the shooting was justified.
"You cannot compare this to Ferguson," Hoskins said. "We had a policeman responding to a call, protecting the residents of the city of Berkeley. Everybody doesn't die the same. Some people die because the police initiated it. Some people die because they initiated it. And at this point, our review indicates that the police did not initiate this, like Ferguson."
Pastor Jason Keith Coleman of Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church wasn't buying what the mayor said.
"Regardless of how it happened, a young black man is dead," Coleman said. "So the thing is, what are we going to do about what has happened? It has to stop happening right now. Call it what it is: a police officer has killed another young black man."
Hoskins did not respond directly to Coleman.
Belmar said Martin had been arrested several times since he turned 17. The firearm he allegedly pointed at the Berkeley officer had been defaced.
The car the officer was driving was equipped with a dashboard camera, Belmar said, but he was not sure if it was on. The officer had also been given a body camera some time during his shift, Belmar said, but was not wearing it. Hoskins said that didn't bother him.
"If it had been six months from today and we had gone through all of the training, I would have some concerns," Hoskins said. "But since it's relatively new, no. In the future, when we get well-trained, there will be a severe penalty for any officer that doesn't turn it on."
Gov. Jay Nixon issued the following brief statement on the shooting in Berkeley:
“The events in Berkeley are a reminder that law enforcement officers have a difficult, and often dangerous, job in protecting themselves and law-abiding citizens.”
Update at 7:23 a.m.: Just prior to the 7 a.m. press conference Wednesday, police released the following video of the moments just before the shooting Tuesday night:
Around 3:00, police released two additional videos.The first was a continuation of the above footage, and shows the officer retreating after firing at Martin. A police spokesman said Martin had been edited out of the footage out of respect for his family.
The second video comes from a camera positioned behind Martin. He and the second individual can be seen in the lower left corner of the screen talking to the police officer. Martin is then seen moving toward the officer, but his hands are not visible. The second man appears to run into the convenience store.
Our earlier story
The officer is employed by the city of Berkeley. The deceased subject’s identity has not been confirmed by police.
St. Louis County Police released a statement in the early morning Wednesday, which reported that:
- The officer exited his vehicle and approached two young men standing near the Mobil gas station at 6800 N. Hanley Road.
- One of the men pulled out a handgun, pointing it at the officer.
- The officer then fired several shots and killed the man pointing the gun.
According to bystanders and legal observers, the subject's body was not removed from the scene until approximately 1:20 a.m.
Soon after the shooting, bystanders and people frequently involved in Ferguson protests began to gather at the gas station. The crowd remained for several hours, swelling to about 300. A nearby exit off of Interstate 170 at North Hanley Road was closed to traffic.
According to legal observers on the scene, police used flash grenades and pepper spray to disperse a group of protesters who had pushed through police tape. At least three arrests were made.
"People are mad. We're tired of losing young black lives,” said Orlando Brown, of St. Charles, who said he was pepper sprayed by police.
"People kind of fell back to regroup and reorganize but this here.... It just put fuel on the fire again," Brown said. "This city right now is a powder keg."
Berkeley is a city of about 9,100 people just west of Ferguson in north St. Louis County. The municipality is patrolled by its own police department.