Lingering racial tensions in St. Louis were reignited when a white cop killed a young black man Tuesday night in a gas station parking lot in Berkeley, the next suburb west of Ferguson.
There were similarities to the police shooting of Michael Brown, whose death in Ferguson in August touched off weeks of protests, rioting and occasional violence. The victim in Berkeley, Antonio Martin, was 18, like Brown. And a theft had been reported at a convenience store minutes before the shooting.
But there were two major differences. Martin was armed, while Brown was not. And unlike in the Ferguson case, there was video evidence of the fatal encounter that appeared to support the unnamed 34-year-old officer’s claim that he fired when Martin pointed the gun at him.
“You couldn’t even compare this with Ferguson or the Garner case in New York,” said Berkeley Mayor Theodore Hoskins, referring to Garner’s police-chokehold death in Staten Island.
Martin, who lived in Berkeley, was with an unidentified man in the parking lot of a Mobil gas station when the cop pulled in about 11:15 p.m. to investigate a shoplifting report. The cop got out of the car and questioned them. The officer talked to the duo briefly.
Then, according to at least three surveillance videos taken from different angles and released by police, Martin moved closer to the cop and raised his arm in an apparent effort to aim his gun at the officer.
Martin, armed with a loaded 9-mm handgun, did not fire, but the officer, who has six years on the force, squeezed off three rounds while running backwards, said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. Martin was hit once. He died at the scene.