BERKELEY, MO (KTVI) – A violent night erupted in St. Louis County after a Berkeley police officer shot and killed an armed teenager who reportedly pointed a gun at him. The shooting occurred Tuesday night at a Mobil gas station, just a few miles away from Ferguson.
A press conference was held by the St. Louis County Police Department shortly after its release.
“We do what we do. We investigate the facts and the circumstances,” said Chief Jon Belmar as he addressed a crowd at the conference that lasted nearly 40 minutes.
County police say the officer, who is 34 years old and a six-year veteran of the Berkeley Police Department, fired three shots–one struck the suspect, later identified as 18-year-old Antonio Martin, and one struck the tire of the police car. Authorities cannot account for the third round at this time. Police do not believe any shots were fired from Martin, though a loaded 9 mm handgun was recovered at the scene. The weapon had a defaced serial number and five rounds in the magazine and in the chamber.
The Berkeley Police Department released surveillance video early Wednesday morning, and it shows Martin draw his gun before he was shot.
“We reviewed the video and it appears that there was a gun pointed at the officer before the officer fired,” Berkley Mayor Theodore Hoskins said. “(It) does not appear … that the police officer initiated.”
The chief offered his condolences to the victim’s family calling this a tragedy. “There is no reason for the family of this young man to see the rest of this video,” said Belmar.
The chief says the officer was given a body camera at the beginning of his shift, but he wasn’t wearing it during the incident, possibly because he was distracted when a supervisor gave it to him earlier on Tuesday, according to CNN. The dash cam on his police vehicle was not activated.
Hoskins said this didn’t bother him, in part because the city, with three cameras for its 31 officers, had just started training officers to use them, according to CNN. The cruiser’s dashboard camera also wasn’t recording because the car’s emergency lights hadn’t been activated, County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.
The officer will be placed on administrative leave until the investigation is completed.
Around 11 p.m. a police officer with the city of Berkeley was responding to reports of a theft. Around 11:15 he pulled into the Mobil gas station located at 6800 North Hanley Rd. He got out of the cruiser to talk to two men in the lot, but while standing next to the driver’s side one of the men stepped back and then pulled out a gun.
In fear for his life, the officer fired several shots, striking the subject and fatally wounding him. The second subject fled the scene.
It is unclear if the two men had anything to do with the reported theft that the officer was responding to.
Gov. Jay Nixon issued a brief statement saying, “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.”
Martin’s body was removed from the scene about an hour and a half following the shooting.
Nearly 50 officers arrived on the scene as a large crowd of nearly 300 people gathered after the shooting. Although explosive devices were used in the parking lot, the Tactical Operations Unit never went to the scene. The chief also noted that tear gas was not deployed.
Four people were taken into custody by the Berkeley Police Department for assaulting officers. One officer was injured. Several police units were damaged and Belmar said people also brought bags of rocks to the scene.
Police have confirmed that Martin was known to law enforcement.
Ferguson is the town directly to the east of Berkeley–the two border each other.
The Berkeley Police Department requested the St. Louis County Police Department’s Crimes Against Persons Unit to handle the investigation.