The death of another Black man at the hands of a white police officer in Berkeley, Missouri, not far from where Michael Brown was fatally shot in Ferguson, led to another series of protests against police use of deadly force on Black men.
Late Wednesday night, protesters held a vigil at the gas station where Antonio Martin, 18, was fatally shot Tuesday by a white police officer. They also blocked traffic on Interstate 170 before returning to the gas station.
Even though the protests on Christmas Eve and Christmas were peaceful, police still arrived in riot gear. On Tuesday night after the shooting, there were some violent protesters among the approximately 300 people, throwing rocks and bricks, according to The Associated Press.
On Christmas Eve, dozens of people peacefully protested at the gas station where Martin was killed, and about 75 people attended the vigil Christmas morning, the AP reported.
The recent fatal police shootings of Black men have the Black community on edge. Since Brown’s death in August, two other Black men have fallen victim to police shootings in the St Louis area, the AP reported — Kajieme Powell, 25, in August and Vonderrit Myers Jr., 18, in October.
But recent threats and the deaths of two New York City police officers also has the law enforcement community on edge.
Unlike Brown’s case, St. Louis Mayor Theodore Hoskins said that surveillance footage captured Martin’s incident. In the video, Hoskins says that it appears that Martin pulled a gun on the unidentified 34-year-old officer who questioned him and another man about a theft.
Taureen Russell, co-founder of Hands Up United, posed the question of whether or not the officer had any reason to question Martin in the first place, the AP reported. Russell said the lack of trust between Blacks and the police remains high, and many are concerned about harassment.
State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat who criticized the police’s handling of the Brown incident, told the AP that officers do need to be able to protect themselves as well.
“That officer not only has an obligation to protect the community, but he also has a responsibility to protect himself,” she said. “Because of the video, it is more than apparent that his life was in jeopardy.”
The camera is too far away to clearly see a gun being raised at the officer. A man is seen backing up from the officer then raising an arm, but the video is stopped after that.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Bellmar said Martin pointed a loaded 9mm handgun at the officer before he was shot. The officer stumbled back and fired three shots at Martin, hitting him once. He died at the scene.
“I don’t know why the gun didn’t get a shot off, whether his gun jammed or he couldn’t get the safety off,” the officer’s lawyer, Brian Millikan, told the AP. He stands behind his client’s use of lethal force.