Questions are emerging about the video footage available for the fatal shooting of Antonio Martin, an 18-year-old black man who was recently killed by a police officer at a gas station in Berkeley, Missouri — just two miles from Ferguson.
On social media and elsewhere, conflicting details about the shooting have surfaced. On Twitter, some witnesses claim that Martin was unarmed at the time of the shooting. At a Wednesday morning press conference, however, St. Louis police chief Jon Belmar said that Martin was armed, and the unidentified officer who shot Belmar had been in “imminent danger” and had used “what he felt was appropriate force at that time” by firing at him.
A loaded 9-millimeter handgun was reportedly found at the scene and surveillance footage from the gas station shows Martin lifting up his arm at the unidentified officer. The video quality, however, is not particularly high, and the incident takes place in a far-off corner, making it difficult to discern exactly what happened. It also cuts off before Belmar shoots Martin.
“If he was in the wrong, I want to know he was in the wrong,” said Martin’s 65-year-old grandmother, Margret Chandler, an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I want to see the gun in his hand.”
Some have taken to Twitter to voice their doubts about the clarity of the video and the decision by the police department not to release more footage.
It’s possible that some of the questions raised — and conflicting accounts — could have been answered with better video footage. The officer who shot Martin had been given a body camera during his shift, but he was not wearing it at the time of the shooting. His car was also equipped with a dashboard camera which was likely inactivated. Belmar said officers were “not used to” the new technology, and described the surveillance footage from the gas station as “really pretty good”.
In a press conference, Theodore Hoskins, the mayor of Berkeley, Missouri, said he was not concerned that the officer who shot Martin failed to record the incident on the body camera, explaining that the technology was new to the officers. He conceded that it would have been “helpful” if body cam footage had been available, “and in the future when we are properly trained there will be a severe penalty for any officer who does not turn it on”.
Witnesses at the scene said that Martin’s body was left in the street for two hours before being transported, which Belmar confirmed. He also said that the officer who shot Martin called EMS responders to the scene. He did not clarify when they arrived, though some witnesses at the scene claim it took them 90 minutes to show.
“I want to know if Antonio was in the wrong,” Chandler told the LA Times. “If he was in the wrong, it’s all over. But if they can’t show me he’s in the wrong, then something’s wrong.”