Following the announcement of a “not guilty” verdict in the case of Jason Stockley, a white former St. Louis police officer who killed a young black man, protesters took to the streets.
Prosecutors accused Stockley of murdering Anthony Lamar Smith after the police interrupted a drug deal. Smith took off in his car and eventually crashed. Stockley claims he saw Smith with a gun and fired.
But prosecutors said that Smith didn’t have a gun and Stockley planted a weapon.
Dashcam video from Stockley’s police car captured him saying he was “going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it.” Less than a minute later, he shot Smith five times.
Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” uttered during a dangerous pursuit.
In his decision, Wilson wrote that the statement “can be ambiguous depending on the context.”
“This court, in conscience, cannot say that the State has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt or that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense,” the judge wrote.
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the verdict, Stockley, 36, said he understands how video of the shooting looks bad, but that he did nothing wrong.
“I can feel for and I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame, but I’m just not the guy,” said Stockley, who left St. Louis’ police force in 2013 and moved to Houston.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner acknowledged the difficulty of winning police shooting cases but said prosecutors believe they proved that Stockley intended to kill Smith.
Friday’s protests began with largely unsuccessful efforts at civil disobedience. Demonstrators were blocked on an entrance ramp before they could rush onto an interstate, and found the city’s convention center’s doors locked when they tried to enter.
Early confrontations erupted when protesters blocked a bus full of officers in riot gear and later surrounded a police vehicle that was damaged with rocks, prompting police to deploy pepper spray. A freelance Associated Press videographer said a protester threw his camera to the ground and damaged it, and he was later threatened with a beating if he didn’t put another camera away. A KTVI reporter said water bottles were thrown at him after a protester taunted him, drawing a crowd.
As night fell, hundreds of demonstrators walked through the streets to the upscale Central West End section of the city, where they chanted and marched as people looked on from restaurants and hospital windows lining busy Kingshighway.
Tensions escalated after protesters broke a front window and splattered red paint on the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, who had called for calm ahead of the verdict and later said she was appalled by what happened to Smith and “sobered” by the outcome.
As with all of these situations, we weren’t there and none of us had to face a potentially deadly confrontation. But this case stinks.
Stockley’s DNA was found on the gun but not Smith’s. Also, this video of the interior of Stockley’s patrol car shows him reaching into his bag and pulling something out. Prosecutors alleged that Stockley planted the gun in Smith’s car.
Announcing you’re going to kill someone and a minute later that person ends up dead at your hands is pretty damning. It makes you ask what the judge was thinking by acquitting this man.
The mob was threatening last night but didn’t explode. But you have to think it won’t take much to set them off if the protests grow larger as it’s expected they will. St. Louis police will be out in full force tonight — so much so that U2 was forced to cancel a concert because police couldn’t promise enough officers.