Police: Multiple Witnesses Say Antonio Martin Pulled Gun on Officer

Wesley Lowery, Washington Post, December 30, 2014

City officials in Berkeley, Mo. said on Tuesday that several witnesses have told police that 18-year-old Antonio Martin drew a gun and pointed it at an officer before he was shot and killed by that officer last week and provided new details about the encounter meant to undermine vocal protesters who have raised pointed questions about the shooting.

The Dec. 23 shooting, which occurred just 5 miles from where Michael Brown was killed in August, sparked protests and at-times violent clashes between police and residents last week, which left several officers injured and a gas station across the street partially vandalized.

“Mr. Martin was armed, Mr. Martin did attempt to fire when he pulled a weapon on the officer,” said Berkeley Police Chief Frank McCall, who added that several witnesses including the man who is seen walking with Martin moments before the shooting have confirmed that Martin drew a weapon on the officer before being shot.

The shooting sparked renewed protests in Greater St. Louis, where demonstrations have occurred almost nightly for the four months since Brown was shot and killed after an altercation with a white Ferguson police officer. {snip}

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Mayor Theodore Hoskins said that groups that continue to protest the shooting have no “objective,” and said that demonstrations that attempt to “disrupt” the city such as one on Monday night that closed a local freeway, will not be tolerated.

According to police, they first received a call about shoplifting at a Mobil gas station at 11:11 p.m., with an officer arriving on the scene and confronting Martin–who police say matched the description of the suspected shoplifter–at 11:14.

One minute later, the officer radioed that shots had been fired.

McCall could not provide any details of the alleged theft, referring questions about what Martin allegedly stole to St. Louis County Police. He also speculated that Martin’s gun did not fire at the officer because the safety was on–but said that he had not directly examined the weapon.

A common criticism and question from protest groups has concerned whether Martin was given medical attention after being shot. Within 20 minutes of the shooting, many of the protesters who have demonstrated in Ferguson had shown up at the scene of the shooting–including at least one who provided livestream video footage. Many online have questioned why no paramedics were seen tending to Martin by the protesters who arrived.

However, city officials insisted that paramedics arrived at the scene of the shooting at 11:21 p.m.–approximately six minutes after the shooting–and had declared Martin dead, covering his body, by 11:28 p.m.

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The news conference came one day after protesters shut down the freeway near the site of the shooting, prompting police response.

“Protest should be peaceful, and we understand the constitution. There is no reason for the protesters to continue in the city of Berkeley unless they will not accept the fact that Mr. Martin drew his gun first,” Hoskins said. “We can only present the facts, and if they do not believe in that, that’s on them. The city of Berkeley will not tolerate what occurred last night.”

But that proclamation, partnered with the decision by Berkeley officials to not release the officer’s name, seems likely to further enrage protesters and some residents who remain skeptical about the circumstances of the shooting.

“Mayor says that blocking highways and streets ‘will not be acceptable from this day forward.’ That sounds like a challenge,” declared protest organizer DeRay Mckesson, who live-tweeted his reaction to the news conference. “This Mayor has just re-ignited the protests in Berkeley. I hope that we’re all ready for what he just started with that statement.”

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