A black 18-year-old with a lengthy criminal record who was fatally shot by a white police officer in a town near Ferguson, Missouri pointed a 9mm handgun at the cop, authorities say.
The proximity of the shooting to Ferguson sparked a violent protest among those who believed that the teenager, who was identified at the scene by his mother as Antonio Martin, was unarmed when he was shot.
At around 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday, a 34-year-old police officer was making a routine check at a Mobil gas station in Berkeley, Missouri, a mere two miles away from Ferguson, where Michael Brown, also an 18-year-old black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer back in August.
According to an official statement released by St. Louis County police, the officer saw Martin and a friend standing on the side of the building. The officer said that while he was questioning the pair, Martin pulled at a handgun and pointed it at him.
Video surveillance taken from the store and released to the public shows the scene unfold.
At the end of the first video released by police, Martin can be seen momentarily turning away from the officer before raising his arm and pointing the gun at the officer.
The surveillance video released to the public ends moments before the shooting. St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar said at a press conference Wednesday morning that the officer, a six-year veteran, fired his gun three times, striking Martin once.
Martin’s friend fled the scene. Belmar said it appeared that Martin did not fire his weapon.
Another video released later in the day on Wednesday shows the officer retreating as he fires shots at Martin. The officer is seen falling down on his back onto the ground as he fires the shots.
“You have somebody that’s pointing a gun at a police officer,” Belmar said Wednesday, as tension grew over the shooting. “There’s not a lot of time. I can imagine that most of us would feel that we’re in imminent danger of losing our lives.”
Rumors that Martin was unarmed stoked a crowd that quickly gathered outside of the store, though St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Valerie Schremp Hahn tweeted a picture showing a black handgun laying on the parking lot.
Black gun seen at scene where body was, with evidence marker next to it. pic.twitter.com/GABb3D2Mu9
— Valerie Schremp Hahn (@valeriehahn) December 24, 2014
The scene turned violent as protesters hurled bottles and bricks at police and set off explosions, believed to be large firecrackers. Two officers were reportedly injured. Four protesters were arrested for assault.
One of the men arrested at the scene was photographed by St. Louis Post-Dispatch photojournalist David Carson wearing a sweater that read “Peacekeepers.”
In Berkeley at fatal officer involved shooting, fights, explosive device thrown into fight, brief fire at QT put out pic.twitter.com/0JovSbrJVp
— David Carson (@PDPJ) December 24, 2014
Martin’s mother says she is still seeking answers about the shooting, though police records show the man had a rap sheet which included charges for three assaults, armed robbery, and multiple uses of weapons, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“This doesn’t make any sense for them to kill my son like this,” Martin’s mother, Toni Martin-Green, told the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday.
Martin’s father, Jerome Green, was also in a state of disbelief.
“He was not a violent person, to our knowledge,” Green told the Post-Dispatch. “Around us there weren’t any pistols. It’s hard to believe that.”
Berkeley’s mayor, Theodore Hoskins, sought to dispel accusations that Martin’s shooting death resembled Brown’s.
“You couldn’t even compare this to Ferguson or the Garner case in New York,” Hoskins said at a press conference on Wednesday.
One of the main concerns voiced during the protests over Brown’s shooting was that Ferguson, which is a predominantly black town, had a majority-white police force and city council.
“Well, we have a majority of black officers in our city,” said Hoskins, who is also black. “The major is black. The city manager is black. The finance director is black. The police chief is black…our experience is different.”
This post has been updated to include new developments.