18-year-old shot dead after raising, pointing loaded gun at St. Louis police officer

A black teenager has been shot dead by a police officer at a gas station only a few miles from where Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri – and surveillance footage apparently shows him pointing his gun at the cop before he was killed.

The victim, named by relatives as Antonio Martin, 18, was killed at a Mobil gas station on North Hanley Road in Berkeley at about 11.15pm on Tuesday.

Toni Martin, who has disputed the police account of the killing, was heard crying ‘that’s my baby,’ as she pointed towards his body under a yellow sheet, while hundreds of people descended on the area, detonating explosives and throwing bricks at officers in protest of police brutality.

But speaking about the death on Wednesday morning, Berkeley Mayor Theodore Hoskins said that the incident should not draw comparisons with the death of Michael Brown, who was unarmed and whose death was not caught on camera. Mayor Hoskins, who himself is black, added that Berkeley has a predominantly African American police force so his officers are more sensitive to race relations than officers in Ferguson.

He said that after hearing that a black teenager had been shot by a white officer last night, his first reaction was that it was another case of police brutality. But after finding out what happened, ‘I can assure you that did not happen last night’, he said.

‘Everybody don’t die the same,’ he said. ‘Some people die because police initiate it. Some people die because they initiate it. At this point, our review indicated that the police did not initiate this.’

The unnamed police officer, a 34-year-old six-year veteran of the force, was responding to a call of a theft in the area when he pulled up to the gas station in his patrol car. He can be seen on the surveillance footage driving up to two males and climbing out of the car with a flashlight, police said.

One of the men approached his car while Martin stood on the other side of the vehicle, Chief Jon Belmar said at a Wednesday press conference. Martin pulled out a weapon and pointed it at the officer, who moved back, dropped his flashlight and fired three shots as he fell backwards, he said.

One of the bullets hit the teenager, another hit a tire and authorities do not yet know where the third ended up. The teenager, who did not fire his weapon, was pronounced dead at the scene by responding EMS officers.

At the press conference, Belmar offered his condolences to the family of Martin, but added that the teenager could have put down his weapon at any time but ‘bad choices were made’ by him instead.

‘It didn’t have to end with him approaching the officer with his arm extended with a 9mm pistol in his hand,’ Belmar said.

A firearm they found at the scene, a 9mm Hi-Point, had had its serial number filed off, Belmar said, which might suggest it had been stolen. The weapon had five rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber.

Chief Belmar said the victim was known to law enforcement and had previous charges including three assaults, armed robbery, armed criminal action and multiple uses of weapons since he was 17.

Authorities do not yet know the identity of the second man at the scene and are trying to track him down. He fled after the shooting.

Chief Belmar said that although the officer was responding to a call about a theft, there is not yet any indication that the two men were connected to it. He added that it was not yet clear if the call had come from the Mobil gas station.

The officer did not have his body camera switched on at the time and authorities do not believe his dashboard camera was turned on either, because it is usually activated by the car’s red flashing lights, but these were not on.

Belmar responded to suggestions the officer could have used a Taser, saying: ‘Frankly that’s unreasonable.’

Mayor Hoskins added that he believes the way the police officer stumbled and shot at the man ‘might have saved his life’. He asked for people not to jump to conclusions before the investigation is complete.

‘All protests are different,’ he said. ‘Last night you would have thought it was Ferguson again. There is a jump to conclusion that all policemen are guilty. We all know that 95 per cent of our police serve our community well, so jumping to conclusions is not acceptable.’

At the press conference on Wednesday, Belmar shared the surveillance footage from the Mobil station but cut it off just before the officer fired his weapon out of consideration for the teenager’s family. He added that officers are looking at other footage taken at the station and will release it later.

‘What we’re really trying to do is try to be as transparent as we possibly can,’ Belmar said. ‘We really want the community to understand this too.’

The officer is now on administrative leave until he completes certain steps, such as talking to the department about the incident, Belmar said.

‘This is a tragedy for the police officer,’ the chief added. ‘He will carry the weight of this for the rest of his life… There are no winners here.’

His death comes amid racial tensions and protests against police violence across the U.S. Protests have been ongoing after a white police officer shot dead unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in broad daylight in August, and violence erupted after a grand jury ruled not to indict the officer.

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