ST. LOUIS – Vandals damaged a St. Louis gas station where a black woman was allegedly kicked by two white employees during an altercation caught on video, prompting a tense standoff Thursday between police and protesters at the store.
The Gas Mart store was ransacked Wednesday night, and a nearby car was set on fire, police said. The damage came a day after an onlooker captured video showing a woman being kicked in her abdomen and mid-section outside the store by two men.
"I couldn't believe it," Shemika Russell, who recorded the altercation, told The Associated Press. Her footage quickly went viral.
The employees accused of kicking the woman, 19-year-old Ahmed Qandeel and 32-year-old Jehad Motan, have been charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault. Neither man has a listed attorney, according to online court records.
The initial incident happened around 8 a.m. Tuesday. Russell said she and a friend had stopped at the gas station when the 37-year-old woman gave Russell's friend $20 and asked her to buy lottery tickets. The woman didn't say why she couldn't go in the store, Russell said.
Store workers refused to sell the tickets, which angered the woman and prompted an expletive-laden shouting match between the woman and two men.
Russell began shooting video, which showed the men telling the woman to leave. One of the men later kicked the woman in the stomach before going back inside the store.
"She fell so hard to the ground," Russell said.
The second man later emerged and eventually kicked the woman, too. Russell said: "I couldn't believe it."
The video quickly went viral, sparking protests Tuesday night and again Wednesday, with protesters sometimes chanting, "Shut it down!" Anger spilled over around 11 p.m. Wednesday, when the store was broken into. Police said a car was set on fire with an accelerant.
No injuries were reported, and no arrests have been made related to the damage.
Protesters returned Thursday. Police arrived to block the store entrance, with nearly two dozen officers standing shoulder-to-shoulder at one point before the encounter calmed.
Gas Mart has apologized in a statement, and a company representative apologized directly to the woman who was kicked.
The Rev. Darryl Gray, a community activist and protest leader, said too many businesses in St. Louis are disrespectful to black patrons.
"You don't have two grown men kicking a defenseless woman and think for whatever reason it was right," Gray said.