Wednesday, December 24, 2014

White Officer Kills African American Near Ferguson
The scene following a crowd scuffle with police following a shooting Tuesday in Berkeley, Mo.


Black 18-year-old fatally shot near Ferguson, Mo. pulled gun on police officer, officials say

Violent protests broke out in suburban St. Louis early Wednesday, hours after a white police officer near Ferguson, Mo., shot and killed an 18-year-old black man who police said pointed a gun at the officer outside a gas station.

The shooting, which was captured on the gas station's security video, took place in the city of Berkeley around 11:15 p.m. A 9-millimeter handgun with six rounds and a defaced serial number was found at the scene, police said.

St. Louis County Police wrote on YouTube, "one of the men 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."

Soon, several hundred demonstrators arrived at the scene and in the early morning hours began throwing bricks at police officers and may have also set off fireworks-like devices, according to officials with the St. Louis County Police Department, the agency that is handling the shooting investigation.

At least four people were arrested, the department said.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the dead man, whom Belmar did not name, had been previously arrested for assaults, armed robbery, armed criminal action and stealing since he turned 17. “He was known to law enforcement,” Belmar said.

Demonstrators at the scene and family identified the victim as Antonio Brown.

"This doesn't make any sense for them to kill my son like this," Toni Martin-Green told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at her home near the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus. "I am trying to be calm."

The shooting also came just miles from where a white police officer shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson on Aug. 9. But Berkeley city officials were quick to distance themselves and Tuesday night's incident from what happened in Ferguson. Brown's death helped spark a national protest movement that has lasted for months.

The fresh round of anger in suburban St. Louis comes as protests continued in New York City on Tuesday night despite the pleas of that city's mayor following the assassinations of two NYPD officers. The man who killed the officers had invoked the names of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who was killed as one officer applied what appeared to be a chokehold. Grand juries in both cases chose not to indict the officers.

Berkeley Mayor Theodore Hoskins held a news conference Wednesday morning and said the shooting was justified.

"At this point, our review indicates that the police did not initiate this, like Ferguson," he said.

Hoskins said police were responding to a report of shoplifting at the gas station and that he'd seen the surveillance video of the incident, in which the man appeared to point a gun at the officer, prompting the officer to fire.

Hoskins, who is black, said the shooting appeared to be justified and said the officer may have "saved his life" by shooting the young man as the officer stumbled and fell down.

"This is not the same as Ferguson," Hoskins said, flanked by black city officials, adding that the predominantly black city's police force and political leadership were also predominantly black.

When a protester at the news conference challenged the mayor over his statements that the shooting was justified, Hoskins replied, “Truly you don’t believe that every person and every black is killed is because of white police? Do you believe that? Every time?"

The 34-year-old officer, reportedly a six-year veteran, was placed on leave and will not be identified while the investigation is ongoing, Hoskins said.

“He will carry the weight of this for the rest of his life and certainly the rest of his career," Chief Belmar said, also extending condolences to the dead man's family. "There are no winners here, there are nothing but losers.”

Video released by the St. Louis County Police Department, which also handled the investigation in the Aug. 9 police shooting of Brown in Ferguson, shows the officer pulling up at the Mobil station around 11:15 p.m.

The officer, who appears to be holding a flashlight, can be seen in the distance talking to two people. Belmar said that when the officer sees one of the men with a gun, he quickly moves backward, loses his balance, and fires three shots.

"One shot struck the suspect and one shot struck the tire of the police car," Belmar said, adding that the suspect did not appear to fire any shots.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement Wednesday morning, “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."

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