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Police Kill Young Man In Missouri; 'It's Not What People Portray,' Mayor Says

Updated at 12 p.m. ET

Protests over a police killing have returned to the St. Louis area, after a Berkeley, Mo., police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old black man Tuesday night. The authorities say he was armed; the shooting took place shortly after 11 p.m. outside a gas station in the St. Louis suburb that's just 2 miles west of Ferguson.

Police officials say the Berkeley officer shot the young man after the man pointed a handgun at him. They have not yet released the slain man's name, pending notification of all family members — but Toni Martin-Green has told local media that it was her son, Antonio Martin, who was killed.

"This doesn't make any sense for them to kill my son like this," Martin-Green tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Details of the case are still emerging; we'll update this post as news emerges.

Frustrated by recent cases in which young black men have been killed by police, a crowd of 200 or 300 people gathered last night at the Mobil gas station where the events transpired. An uneasy standoff with police followed; no major injuries were reported, although some police cars were damaged.

"It's not what people portray," Berkeley Mayor Theodore Hoskins said Wednesday morning, going on to say that the police officer did not "go off half-cocked."

The St. Louis County Police Department, which is handling the investigation, has released one video of the events leading up to the shooting, taken by a surveillance camera at the station. They plan to release more.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET: Martin's Family Speaks

The parents of Antonio Martin say that while he had had problems, they don't understand why he died.

"This doesn't make any sense for them to kill my son like this," Toni Martin-Green tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Martin's family said he had "stumbled" in the past; the police say the man slain last night had a criminal record that included armed robbery. We've written a separate post about the family's remarks.

Update at 10:40 a.m. ET: 'We Don't Have Major Crime,' Berkeley Mayor Says

"Our police officers are more sensitive," Berkeley Mayor Theodore Hoskins said in response to a question about what sets this incident apart from events elsewhere. He noted that black people make up a majority of his town, its government and its police force.

Hoskins also repeatedly said that in this case, Berkeley has a video documenting the shooting, and that it intends to use it to determine what transpired — something, he added, that did not happen in the case of Eric Garner in New York City.

Asked about the demographics of the Berkeley Police Department, Hoskins said it has around 31 officers, including 17 or 18 African-Americans. He added that most of the department's command staff is African-American — and that they mostly worry about people committing offenses such as breaking into houses.

"We don't have major crime in this city," he said. "This is unique."

Update at 10:35 a.m. ET: 'It's Not What People Portray'

Mayor Hoskins opened his news conference this morning by extending his condolences to the family of the slain man. He also expressed concern about the police officer who fired the shot that killed him.

"It's difficult," Hoskins said of the impact of taking a life. "So we need to all put our arms around the police officer."

Saying that he had watched the video of the incident, Hoskins sought to dispel the idea that the case was similar to recent controversial killings of black men by white police officers.

"It's not what people portray," he said, going on to say that the police officer did not "go off half-cocked."

"We had a policeman responding to a call," he said, noting that the officer had been called to the scene by a report of a young man shoplifting.

Update at 10:10 a.m. ET: Berkeley News Briefing

We're awaiting the start of a news conference held by Berkeley Police Chief Frank McCall.

CNBC's Keith Boykin notes in a tweet, "Unlike Ferguson, the mayor and the city council in Berkeley, Missouri are all black," providing a link to the city's leadership page, which features Mayor Theodore Hoskins and five council members.

Berkeley's website promotes the town's motto as "a planned progressive community."

Update at 8:25 a.m. ET: Police Release Surveillance Video

"There are no winners here. There are nothing but losers," said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, wearing a black band over his badge as he began a news briefing at which he discussed Tuesday night's shooting.

He then went over what police believe about the case so far, releasing a video taken from a surveillance camera at the gas station where the shooting occurred after a call came in to police about a theft.

The footage shows a police cruiser — driven by an officer that Belmar says is a white 34-year-old man who is a six-year veteran of the police force — pulling into the station's well-lit parking lot.

Holding a flashlight, the officer then talks with two men in the parking lot. One of those men was killed last night; the other fled the scene and is being sought by police for questioning.

The footage was taken some distance from the police car, making details hard to discern. Much of the interaction between the officer and the men takes place at the front of the car, with part of the hood separating them. The video ends with the man on the left raising his arm toward the officer.

At that point, Belmar says, the officer moves backward and quickly throws away his flashlight before opening fire.

"We do not believe that there were any shots fired from the suspect," he said.

Police believe the officer fired three shots, Belmar says, with one hitting the man, and one hitting the tire of the police car. The third bullet hasn't been found.

Belmar said the man had a 9 mm handgun that had been "defaced."

Saying that the incident could have ended in many other ways than it did, Belmar said, "bad choices were made" by the man who was killed.

More than once, Belmar called the incident a tragedy.

Belmar said the officer has a body camera, but he wasn't wearing the device. And while his police cruiser has a dashboard camera, he said, it wasn't on because the car's emergency lights weren't on.

After the shooting, around 200 or 300 people gathered at the gas station, Belmar said. He said that rocks and bricks, and apparently several fireworks, were thrown, and that four arrests were made. Several officers suffered injuries, he said.

Our original post continues:

Police say a camera at the Mobil gas station captured the shooting on video and that they recovered a gun at the scene that belonged to the deceased man. Saying that he has seen the footage, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police says it shows the officer fired after a man pulled out a gun.

"Police did not identify the person killed, but Toni Martin, who was at the scene, said he was her 18-year-old son, Antonio Martin," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The shooting set off a tense confrontation between police and a crowd of people who gathered at the gas station. A police car had its window smashed. Nearby, looters attacked a QuikTrip convenience store.

From local TV KSDK:

"According to Sgt. Brian Schellman, a spokesman with the St. Louis County Police Department, the shooting took place at 11:15 p.m. at the Mobil station in the 6800 block of N. Hanley Road.

"The officer was conducting a routine business check at the gas station when he noticed two young men along the side of the building. As the officer walked toward the front door, one of those men pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the officer, Schellman said.

"The officer opened fire, striking the armed man, who died at the scene. The second man ran off."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.