Just five miles from the site where Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, another young, black teen was shot and killed by police late Tuesday night by a white police officer.
Demonstrations and angry clashes between police and protesters erupted overnight as the community reacted to the shooting. The St. Louis County Police confirmed the death, saying the teen had pulled a gun on an officer from the city of Berkeley and that “fearing for his life” he had “fired several shots.” According to police, a handgun was recovered at the scene.
St. Louis County Police released a statement Wednesday identifying the deceased as Antonio Martin, 18.
"Everybody don't die the same. ... At this point our review indicates that the police did not initiate this like Ferguson."'
Berkeley is just two miles from Ferguson, making this the third police shooting death of a young black man in the area since Aug. 9, when unarmed teen Michael Brown was shot and killed by a local officer. A second teen, who was armed, was shot and killed in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis by an off-duty police officer in October. The latest shooting comes just as many have called for a halt to nationwide anti-police brutality protests in the wake of the deaths of two New York City police officers who were killed by a man allegedly outraged by the deaths of Brown and others.
Mayor Theodore Hoskins spoke Wednesday morning to emphasize that this was not another Ferguson.
"We're different than the city of Ferguson," he said in a press conference, noting that the mayor, city manager, and police chief are all black. "At this point, it appears -- let me say this strongly -- it appears that the person, this deceased, was pointing a gun which was found at the scene."
"Everybody don't die the same," he continued. "Some people die because the police initiated it, some people die because they initiated it. At this point our review indicates that the police did not initiate this like Ferguson."
He noted that the city of Berkeley would be doing an independent investigation, as would the St. Louis County Police. Police reported early Wednesday that the officer had fired three shots and that one had struck the victim; the gun recovered was a 9 mm and had five shots in the chamber. At this time, they don't believe the suspect fired his weapon. The officer was responding to a robbery call when he approached two young people, one of whom was the victim. The second fled the site.
There is camera footage of the shooting from the gas station, which police released on Youtube; it shows the young man -- quite far from the camera -- raising his arm, but the gun police say he held is not clearly visible. The officer was not wearing his department-issued body camera at the time of the incident, officials said on Wednesday, and the dash cam -- activated by police car lights -- was also not on.
Around 200 protesters gathered near the site of the shooting – a Mobile gas station – and clashed with police as the victim’s body lay covered on the ground. A police car's windows were smashed, officials said, and bricks were thrown at police. Three explosive devices were also ignited during the protests, with one starting a small fire and another injuring an officer trying to flee from the explosion.
A woman at the scene identified herself as Toni Martin and said the victim was her son, Antonio Martin. She said she did not think he was carrying a gun.
In August, the shooting of Michael Brown -- who was unarmed -- kicked off turbulent protests that were aggressively suppressed by police who fired off tear gas and arrested hundreds. Since then, Brown’s death -- and the deaths of other black men who have lost lives at the hands of police -- has become a rallying point for demonstrations around the nation, attracting thousands in New York, California, Washington, D.C., Missouri, and more.
Already, civil rights advocates are seizing on the death as another rallying cry.
"The tears of grieving families are neither police blue nor racially black or brown, they are colorless."'
"With depressing familiarity, with numbing regularity, we are reminded that black lives do not matter. That a beat cop can be judge, jury and executioner. That bodies are left laying in streets, carted away in SUVS," one civil rights faith leader, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, said in a release.
The NAACP, meanwhile, released a statement Wednesday urging protesters "refrain from any violent retaliation" and calling for patience as the investigation into Martin's death proceeds. "A violent response, as the families of so many recent victims of violence have said so often, does nothing to honor and in fact desecrates the memory of their loved ones," said Cornell William Brooks, the NAACP president and CEO. "The tears of grieving families are neither police blue nor racially black or brown, they are colorless."