A white police officer shot a black teenager to death at a gas station in the city next door to Ferguson, Missouri, touching off clashes early Wednesday between demonstrators and law enforcement.
The mayor said that video from the confrontation, in the city of Berkeley, appeared to show the teenager pointing a gun at the officer, and police said a handgun was recovered at the scene. Police said the officer feared for his life.
“This was not the same as Ferguson,” Mayor Theodore Hoskins said.
He took pains to say that the shooting could not be compared to the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson or to the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York. The mayor, who is black, pointed out that the Berkeley police department is majority-black.
“He promised a thorough investigation but said that the video showed it was not a police officer going off “half-cocked.”
“Everybody don’t die the same,” he told reporters.
“Some people die because the policeman initiated. Some people die because they initiated it. And at this point, our review indicates that the police did not initiate this, like Ferguson.”
“We have a majority of black officers in our city,” Hoskins said, drawing contrasts with Ferguson. “The mayor is black. The city manager is black. The finance director is black. The police chief is black. Our police officers are more sensitive.”
He said that the officer fired at least three rounds and that the victim did not fire any.
“I can see about 50 cop cars,” said Bradley Rayford, a photographer at the scene. “They’re fighting and scuffling, the highway is blocked with cars, people are being arrested. Trash cans are on fire.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson told CNN’s Hala Gorani that some of the protesters damaged police cars. CNN showed images of one squad car with a large dent in its side.
A scuffle broke out, and officers grabbed some of the demonstrators and led them off in handcuffs.
“At one point, an explosive device, like a large firecracker or firework, was thrown into the middle of the fight and exploded. That kind of scattered a lot of people,” Carson said.
David Carson was live tweeting events on the scene and it quickly broke down into mayhem.
One shot struck the suspect, another struck the tire of the officer’s patrol car and it is unknown where the third shot hit, Belmar said. Police do not believe that the suspect fired any shots.
Belmar said it was “pretty disturbing” that what appeared to be a firework had exploded next to a gas pump. “To come there carrying explosive devices is not safe for our city,” he said.
“These are nothing but tragedies,” Belmar said as he offered his condolences to the victim’s family. The officer “will have to carry the weight of this for the rest of his life,” he said, adding: “There are no winners here.”
The officer’s name was not released. He was placed on administrative leave, Belmar said.
“Call it what it is: A police officer has killed another black man and this has got to stop,” said Jason Keith Coleman, a black Baptist minister and activist who interrupted the Berkeley mayor’s press conference.
The mother said Antonio turned 18 in September and had attended nearby Jennings High School, and that she was trying to get him enrolled in the Jobs Corps employment program. She spoke as the body still lay covered on the ground outside the Mobil gas station.
“They got my baby laying out there. He’s been out there for about two hours,” she said.
Gov. Jay Nixon said: “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.”