BERKELEY, Mo. – An internal police investigation confirmed an 18-year-old pointed a gun at an officer who shot him to death in a convenience store parking lot in suburban St. Louis last week, officials said Tuesday.
Berkeley Police Chief Frank McCall said several witnesses told police that Antonio Martin pointed the gun at the officer, who has not been identified.
The officer was responding to a report of shoplifting at the Mobil on the Run store Dec. 23. McCall said Martin matched the description of the suspect, though he said he did not know if Martin had any stolen items with him because St. Louis County police are investigating that part of the case.
Renewed protests followed the shooting, which was the third of a black suspect by a white officer in the region since 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in neighboring Ferguson on Aug. 9. Up to 60 people gathered again Monday at the convenience store, then marched to nearby Interstate 170 and walked onto the roadway. No one was arrested, but police twice had to close the highway to traffic.
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Unlike the shooting of Brown, who was unarmed, surveillance cameras recorded Martin’s death. Police the next day released grainy video that police said showed Martin raising a gun at the officer.
The witnesses included a man who was with Martin, who also confirmed Martin pointed the gun at the officer, McCall said. The officer fell backward trying to retreat and fired three shots. One hit Martin, who was pronounced dead minutes later.
He said the safety was still on Martin’s gun when he examined it.
“If the safety had been released off the weapon there’s a possibility that we might be talking about more than one death,” McCall said.
Mayor Theodore Hoskins said protesters have the right to gather peacefully, but he warned that those who turn violent or continue to block highways and roads will face arrest.
“There is no reason for the protesters to continue in the city of Berkeley unless they will not accept the fact that Mr. Martin drew his gun first,” Hoskins said.
Eight protesters were arrested on municipal charges in the first two nights after the shooting. Four officers were hurt in the unrest.
Police said another man, 19-year-old Joshua Williams, is charged with second-degree burglary, first-degree arson and theft for allegedly breaking into a nearby QuikTrip convenience store and using lighter fluid to set a fire that was quickly put out. Williams has been frequently quoted and photographed at protests over Brown’s death. He does not have an attorney.
St. Louis County police are conducting their own investigation of the shooting. Results have not been yet released.
The officer is struggling with what happened, and the fact that he had to take a life, Hoskins said.
McCall said his department has three body cameras for the 31-member police force, but they are still being tested. The officer involved in the shooting did not have his body camera on.