Former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted of murder charges on Friday for the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith. His acquittal is expected to spark protest in the St. Louis area with this being another case of a police officer killing a Black person without consequence.
Prosecutors charged Stockley with murder last year for killing Smith after a car chase in December 2011. They opened the case after new evidence emerged from the St. Louis city police and the FBI, according to the circuit attorney. They did not say what the new evidence was, but prosecutors believe Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car and according to their probable cause statement, Stockley was caught saying he was “going to kill this mother f*cker, don’t you know it” and was heard telling another officer to ram into Smith’s slowing car.
Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson outlined the history of the case saying Smith’s car crashed into a police vehicle before taking off. Stockley fired shots at Smith’s car before he went after him on a high-speed chase that Wilson said lasted three minutes. In Wilson’s account, which is partially based on the dashboard camera of the police car, Stockley approached Smith’s car when it stopped. His hand was on his holstered gun when he approached and then he appeared to wrestle “with something or someone at the window.” Stockley then drew his gun and fired.
A medical examiner said Smith was shot five times, with one bullet going through his heart. The medical examiner couldn’t say if Smith was reaching for anything when he was killed. Prosecutors in the murder trial said a gun was found in Smith’s car, however it was later determined that only Stockley’s DNA was found on it.
Judge Wilson ultimately acquitted Stockley on the murder charges saying he was “simply not firmly convinced” of Stockley’s guilt. He believed the state couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stockley “did not act in self-defense,” as the former officer expressed before. In his testimony, Stockley also denied planting a gun in Smith’s car, saying he touched it for the first time when he did a search of the vehicle.
State and local officials are preparing for unrest expected to follow Stockley’s acquittal. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) even put the state’s National Guard on standby Thursday.
Protesters have already started taking to the streets on Friday.
“This not guilty verdict of a police officer who violently killed a citizen is another slap in the face to the Black community in St. Louis,” said Missouri State Rep. Michael Butler (D). “And a shot in the heart to the family of the victim.”
Our thoughts go out to Anthony’s family and friends.