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Feds to Investigate St. Louis Cops for Alleged Violations of Police Protesters' Rights

st louis freeway protest against police shooting

WASHINGTON -- St. Louis Congressman Wm. "Lacy" Clay (D-Mo.) praised the Justice Department for responding "quickly" and affirmatively to his request that they investigate local police for alleged civil rights violations in their response to protests after an acquittal in an officer-involved shooting.

Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, a constituent of Clay's, was killed in the early afternoon of Dec. 20, 2011. According to statements from the two officers on patrol that day, now-former Officer Jason Stockley saw two African-American men standing near the entrance to a fast-food restaurant and thought they may have been conducting a drug transaction. One of the men went inside the restaurant while Smith got into a silver Buick, which had been blocked by the police cruiser when it parked, and struck the cop car while trying to pull out in a five-point turn and drive off.

One of the officers broke the driver's side window and said he "alerted" Stockley that he saw what he thought was a gun on the passenger seat. Stockley was knocked "sideways" by the Buick and opened fire as Smith pulled out of the parking lot, shattering the car's back window. The officers then pursued his car for three minutes until Smith spun out in the rain and the police car hit the Buick, deploying the airbags in Smith's car. Stockley's partner said the airbags were obscuring their view of the driver but he was only showing his left hand while his right hand was down toward the center console. Stockley shot Smith in the chest, his partner recounted.

According to the autopsy report, Smith was shot on the left side of his neck, the left side of his chest, left mid-flank, left lower lateral flank and his left forearm. He tested negative for drugs and alcohol. A bag of heroin was found in the car.

A sergeant's report says Stockley told him that, after killing Smith, he had grabbed the gun he saw on the passenger seat, cleared it and set it back down because he thought bystanders might grab it and try to shoot the officers. Prosecutors charged that Stockley planted an unloaded .38-caliber revolver -- a gun bearing only the officer's DNA, not Smith's -- and three cartridges in the car to clear himself of wrongdoing in the shooting. Stockley was carrying a personal AK-47 that day that he was not allowed to carry while on duty.

Smith's fiancee said she was on an open cell phone line with Smith at the time and said she believes he was originally seen reaching for his phone -- the silver object described in reports at the restaurant scene that officers said they thought was a gun -- instead of a weapon.