In what is probably the last thing we needed to hear on Christmas Eve morning, there has been another shooting of a black teenager in Missouri by a police officer, only two miles from where the Michael Brown shooting took place. Eighteen year old Antonio Martin was at a gas station in Berkeley, Missouri when the incident took place. However, any similarity to the circumstances of the Michael Brown shooting apparently stop there.
A Berkeley police officer fatally shot a suspect who pointed a gun at him late Tuesday, St. Louis County police said early today.
Police did not identify the person killed but Toni Martin, who was at the scene, said he was her 18-year-old son, Antonio Martin.
Several protesters also arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting. Many stayed overnight.
The officer saw two people outside the station, got out of his vehicle and approached them. One of the suspects pulled out a handgun.
The officer was conducting what was described as a “routine business check” at the gas station and Martin was either in a car in the parking lot or coming out of the store. (Reports are conflicting) When the officer approached, Martin reportedly drew a handgun and pointed it at the officer. The officer discharged his weapon multiple times and Martin was pronounced dead at the scene. The suspect’s gun was recovered.
Somehow, before anyone else had gotten hold of the story, protests broke out in almost no time at all.
Protesters gathered around an ethnically diverse group of dozens of police officers, who stood between them and the scene. People in the crowd screamed at police. Others spoke more calmly.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson told CNN’s Hala Gorani that some of the protesters damaged police cars. CNN showed images of one squad car with a large dent in its side.
A scuffle broke out, and officers grabbed some of the demonstrators and led them off in handcuffs.
“At one point, an explosive device, like a large firecracker or firework, was thrown into the middle of the fight and exploded. That kind of scattered a lot of people,” Carson said.
David Carson was live tweeting events on the scene and it quickly broke down into mayhem.
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
If you take some time and read through the Twitter stream for the hashtag #AntonioMartin you will see that the accusations are already flying and for those of us who have been covering too many of these stories, it’s beyond depressing. But in this case things may turn a corner more quickly. The gas station has security cameras pointed at the parking lot which are allegedly functional. The police claim that the video will be released at 7 a.m. central time. I’ll post an update when it become available. If we’re extremely lucky the video will give us a conclusive answer one way or the other and stop this from turning into another explosive fiasco. Or at least I can hope for a Christmas Eve miracle in that form.
UPDATE: (Jazz) The video has been released by the St. Louis County PD. Honestly, I don’t yet see how this is conclusive either way yet.
Still frame at end of video showing a figure with his arm raised. (Highlighted in red box)
UPDATE: (Jazz) Presser with local police chief says they have “video from other angles that shows the shooting” but are not releasing it “out of respect for Martin’s family.” I’m sorry to say, that’s very poor coordination. I realize they want to avoid any voyeuristic aspects of a grisly scene, but if they have better video showing Martin drawing down on the officer, they should get it out there now to shut down the speculation among protesters.
Also, the Chief describes the scene as the officer backing up quickly away from Martin and falling to the ground. In the process, the officer fires three shots. One strikes Martin, one strikes the tire of the squad car, the third is unaccounted for. Developing…
UPDATE: (Jazz) Lots of people have been picking up on this rather spectacular HuffPo #Fail in the hours following the shooting. Yet another reason that we try to get some confirmation of facts before hitting the publish button.
The Huffington Post got duped by a Twitter user claiming to have witnessed Tuesday night’s fatal police shooting of a man in a St. Louis suburb. It published an account – which it later withdrew – of a police officer opening fire on a teenager because he would not lie down on the ground. It then published a correction – first at the top of the story, then moving it to the bottom…
In its initial story, the Huffington Post quoted a Twitter user named “Jesus Christo” who claimed to have been with the victim, whom he called “Antonio.” The person would not speak to the Huffington Post over the phone but reportedly told the reporter via Twitter that he and the victim were told they matched the descriptions of two robbery suspects. He said the officer tried to search the victim but the victim would not let him, according to the news outlet.
Later reports indicated that “Jesus Christo” was trying to promote his mix tape, but that’s not confirmed yet.
UPDATE: (Jazz) The St. Louis County PD has released the other views from the security cameras. The first one here is interesting in terms of the actual shooting and may assist in identifying suspect number two who fled the scene. In the lower left section of the frame, near the end, you can see Martin from behind as he pulls the gun and sticks it in the officer’s face from a few feet way. The officer backs out of the frame as the shots are fired. Martin falls out of frame at the bottom as the second suspect flees along the front of the building.
The second one does not actually show Antonio Martin from that angle, but does show the police officer through the time span where he is forced to take the shots. This will serve as a far more informative source in one way as I describe below.
Despite not showing Martin, this one shows the officer doing exactly what was described in the initial reports released by the PD. Standing near the squad car, at the same time stamp as when Martin is shown raising what appears to be his weapon to point at the officer, he rapidly backs up while drawing his weapon and squeezing off three shots. So rapidly is he backing up that he winds up tripping and going down on his back with his flashlight flying across the parking lot.
Given all of the conspiracy theories we’ve seen flying around Twitter, supporters of the “Martin was unarmed” story are going to need to have the X-Files crew and an alien show up to make this work. If we are to believe them, the officer would have needed to see Martin raising a hand that was either empty or had his ID or a piece of fluff (in the lights of the gas station, mind you) and then go into the full blown reverse firing maneuver you see in the clip above. If the cop is guilty of the evil intent implied by his accusers in the protests then he should also be up for an Academy Award. Anyone watching the first and third videos together can see what happened here.
But even for all that, the protests are going on anyway.
Protesters took to the streets of Berkeley, Mo., for a second night on Wednesday after a white police officer killed a black teenager who police said pointed a gun at him.
Dozens of protesters marched on Interstate 170, shutting it down for a brief time before heading to the Mobil gas station where 18-year-old Antonio Martin was shot and killed Tuesday night.
NewsChannel 5 crews saw some people trying to get into a store front near the gas station during the protests. Other protesters tried to stop the group. The crews said they heard gunshots during the confrontation.
As I mentioned earlier, it seems more and more as if laws requiring body cameras and dash cams for police aren’t going to make any difference. The anti-cop protests and riots will apparently take place even when you have real time video of the suspect shoving a gun in the cop’s face. But reality eventually intrudes for those willing to look at the evidence. By the time events reach the point where you have your Luger leveled at the officer’s head, we’ve already crossed the Rubicon and something very, very bad is about to happen.