At approximately 11:15 PM on December 23, 2014, a police officer with the City of Berkeley was responding to the Mobile Gas Station located at 6800 N. Hanley when he observed two male subjects on the side of the building. The Berkeley Police Officer exited his vehicle and approached the subjects when one of the men, Antonio Martin, pulled a handgun and pointed it at the officer. Fearing for his life, the Berkeley Officer fired several shots, striking the subject, fatally wounding him. The second subject fled the scene. The Berkeley Police Department requested the St. Louis County Police Department’s Crimes Against Persons Unit to handle the investigation. St. Louis County Police Detectives have recovered the deceased subject’s handgun at the scene
Saint Louis – A Berkeley police officer fired at least three shots at a suspect who pulled a gun on him, the St. Louis County Police chief said at a Wednesday morning news conference.
Police Chief Jon Belmar said the officer was responding to a report of stealing at a Mobil on the Run station about 11:15 p.m. Tuesday when the deadly shooting happened.
The officer saw two men on the parking lot in the 6800 block of North Hanley Road and began talking with them.
Belmar said one of the men approached the driver’s side of the vehicle.
The officer’s attorney, Brian Milliken, said one of the men spoke with the officer, while the other kept wandering away despite the officer’s commands to stay near him, Milliken said.
One of the individuals “produced a pistol with his arm straight out, pointing it straight at the officer kind of from across the hood,” Belmar said.
At that point, the chief said, the officer got his handgun, “and fired what we think is three shots.” Belmar said one round struck the suspect, Antonio D. Martin, 18, and one struck a tire of the police car. Police said they did not immediately know where the third round went.
The officer, who is 34 and white, is a six-year veteran of the department, Belmar said. He was placed on investigative leave, which is standard.
Milliken said his client recounted the details to him several hours after the shooting.
“The other guy was doing the talking, and as the cop starts talking, the suspect starts walking away again,” Milliken said. “At that point, the cop says, ‘Hey, come back here,’ and he turns around, pulls a gun from his left pant pocket.”
“He’s trying to process all of this, and the suspect raises it, points it at him. The cop pulls his weapon and starts backpedaling and fired three or four shots. It happened that quickly. He doesn’t understand why the suspect’s gun didn’t fire. I’m not sure if he tried to pull the trigger and it jammed.”
Milliken said it’s possible that his client was being set up for an ambush. Store employees called 911 after the suspects stole from the store, Milliken said.
“Their behavior is certainly bizarre, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all, in the environment we are in, that’s for sure,” Milliken said.
Milliken would not comment on why his client was not wearing his body camera at the time of the shooting, “There could be some internal issues,” he said. He added that he was glad the incident was captured by surveillance cameras.
“Having video really helps in this situation because it puts to rest all of the false narratives that would be out there,” he said.
He did not reveal his client’s name. “It doesn’t do anything but subject him to threats and puts him and his family in harm,” he said.
Millken said his client was calm, but shaken.
“On the one hand, you know you have followed proper procedures and policies, and, on the other hand, these guys are human beings, and on the day before Christmas, he had to take somebody’s life,” Milliken said. “He’s no different than anyone else involved in the situation. It’s a traumatic experience and something he’ll be doing a lot of reflecting on for the rest of his life.
“He did certainly express remorse that the situation happened at all.”
Millken also represents St. Louis police officer Jason Flanery, who killed VonDeritt Myers, 18, in the city’s Shaw neighborhood in October.
From the videotape released by St. Louis County Police and Belmar’s description, the officer was near the front driver’s side of the vehicle and Martin was on the other side, near the car’s headlights, when the shooting occurred. Police first said the officer was making a routine business check when the shooting happened; Belmar later said he was responding to a stealing call.
As the officer pointed his gun, he was backing away and lost his balance, Belmar said. As he fell, he dropped his flashlight and fired his weapon.
Martin was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS units. Berkeley police called the county’s crimes against persons unit at 11:45 p.m., and they arrived at the scene at 12:15 a.m., Belmar said.
The body, which was covered and concealed from the crowd by a partition, was removed from the scene at 1:40 a.m., Belmar said.
He also said the 9 mm gun found on the suspect had five rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber. He said the gun’s serial number had been filed off.
Police confirmed Martin’s name later Wednesday morning. Belmar said he had a criminal record, with charges including three assaults, armed robbery, armed criminal action and multiple uses of weapons since he was 17.
A woman at the scene overnight, Toni Martin-Green, confirmed the victim was her son.
Police said they did not know who the second person was, but they called him a “person of interest” and asked for the public’s help to find him.
They said two bystanders on the Mobil parking lot were witnesses.
At a news conference later Wednesday morning, Berkeley Mayor Theodore Hoskins said, “You can’t compare this to Ferguson or the Garner case in New York.” He said the videotape showed Martin pointing a gun at the officer. He said the city would conduct its own complete investigation, separate from the St. Louis County Police investigation.
“Our overall goal is to project the truth to residents,” Hoskins said.
Among the department’s 31 officers, the mayor said, 17 or 18 are African-American. About 75 percent of the command staff are black, in addition to the mayor, police chief and other city officials, Hoskins added.
“At this point, our review indicates that the police did not initiate this, like Ferguson,” Hoskins said.
Belmar said he notified St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch of the shooting, and McCulloch assigned a prosecutor to the case.
An estimated 200 to 300 protesters gathered at the scene after the shooting, and conflicts broke out between officers and protesters, Belmar said.
Four people were arrested for assaulting officers, and at least one officer was injured when he tried to get away from some sort of firework device set off on the parking lot, Belmar said.
Protesters also threw bricks at officers, Belmar said. Police used pepper spray on the crowd but did not use any tear gas, the chief said.
He said several police cars were damaged, and some protesters brought bags of rocks to the scene.
As for suggestions that the officer should have used a Taser instead of his gun, Belmar said: “Frankly that’s unreasonable.” The officer had a body camera issued to him at the start of his shift, but he was not wearing it. The car’s dash-camera was not activated.
The suspect could have complied with the officer, but made “bad choices” instead, Belmar said. (read more)