Off-duty police officer fatally shoots home intruder who had argued with him about Black Lives Matter on Facebook

·Senior Writer
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar speaks during a news conference after a police shooting on the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, Aug. 10, 2015. (Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP)
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar (Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP)

An off-duty police officer fatally shot a man who was trying to enter his St. Louis-area home late Saturday afternoon, Missouri officials say.

According to police, 20-year-old Tyler Gebhard rang the doorbell at the officer’s Lakeshire, Mo., home shortly before 6 p.m. When the officer’s wife answered the door and refused entry, police said, Gebhard, a former high school football star, threw a 50-pound concrete planter through a rear window and attempted to enter.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Gebhard was shot twice in the chest by the officer, whose name was not released. Gebhard, who was known to the officer’s family, was rushed to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Belmar said the officer’s wife, mother-in-law, a toddler and an infant were in the home at the time of the incident and that the family members heard the officer tell the intruder to “get down” before shots were fired.

Gebhard’s uncle, Patrick Brogan, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his nephew had become acquainted with the officer “through a church connection” and that the two “had been arguing on Facebook about Black Lives Matter.”

Brogan added that Gebhard, who was biracial, suffered from bipolar disorder.

“Tyler was going over to fight,” Brogan said. “When he got there he was met with a gun and the guy killed him.”

Belmar said the officer’s actions were justified.

“I don’t think the officer had a choice,” Belmar said. “I honestly don’t.”

The incident comes amid broiling racial tensions following a pair of fatal police shootings of black men in Baton Rouge, La., and Falcon Heights, Minn., and the killings of five Dallas police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest over them.

President Obama condemned the attacks on the officers.

“Whenever those of us who are concerned about fairness in the criminal justice system attack police officers, you are doing a disservice to the cause,” Obama said while speaking to reporters in Madrid on Sunday. “First of all, any violence directed at police officers is a reprehensible crime and needs to be prosecuted. But even rhetorically, if we paint police in broad brush without recognizing that the vast majority of police officers are doing a really good job and are trying to protect people and do so fairly … then we’re going to lose allies in the reform cause.”

The president also said it would be wrong to paint Black Lives Matter activists with a similarly broad brush.

“I don’t think that you can hold well-meaning activists who are doing the right thing and peacefully protesting responsible for everything that is uttered at a protest site,” Obama sais. “The overwhelming majority of people who are involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, what they really want to see is a better relationship between the police and the community so that they can feel that it’s serving them. And the best way to do that is to bring allies forward.”

On Friday, a day after the shootings in Dallas, a white police officer in a St. Louis suburb was shot and critically injured by a black man in an ambush during a traffic stop. Ballwin Police Chief Kevin Scott declined to speculate whether the attack was racially motivated. The suspect, 31-year-old Antonio Taylor, was on probation for a weapons violation in St. Louis when he was pulled over.

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