Ex-of­fi­cer’s ac­quit­tal sparks con­flict in Mis­souri

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition) - - News - VA­LERIE VOLCOVICI KENNY BAHR ST. LOUIS

Hun­dreds of pro­test­ers poured into St. Louis’s streets and some scuf­fles broke out as they voiced their anger af­ter a Mis­souri judge on Fri­day ruled a white for­mer St. Louis po­lice of­fi­cer was not guilty of mur­der in the 2011 shoot­ing of a black man.

With the Na­tional Guard on standby in case of vi­o­lence, au­thor­i­ties ap­pealed to pro­test­ers to march peace­fully in a state where racially charged clashes in the nearby city of Ferguson spawned the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment in 2014. Po­lice said a few pro­test­ers threw rocks and wa­ter bot­tles, while wit­nesses and video showed of­fi­cers used pep­per spray on at least five peo­ple about a block from the court­house. About 50 riot po­lice were on hand, block­ing a ramp to a nearby high­way.

Ja­son Stock­ley, 36, was ac­quit­ted of first-de­gree mur­der for killing An­thony La­mar Smith, 24. The for­mer po­lice­man said Mr. Smith fled in his car when he at­tempted to ar­rest him on drug charges.

Mr. Stock­ley and his part­ner chased Mr. Smith, who was shot five times in his car. The for­mer po­lice­man thought Mr. Smith had a gun, de­fence lawyers said. A gun was found in the car but pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued Mr. Stock­ley planted the weapon and the gun had only Mr. Stock­ley’s DNA on it.

Af­ter the ver­dict, about 600 pro­test­ers marched in down­town St. Louis, chant­ing “No jus­tice, no peace” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! These killer cops have got to go!”

Mr. Stock­ley’s lawyer, Neil Brun­trager, said the ex-of­fi­cer on Fri­day was relieved and would seek to re­build his life.

Judge Ti­mothy Wil­son’s rul­ing said the state had not proved mur­der be­yond a rea­son­able doubt or even a lesser charge such as in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter. The judge also doubted the pros­e­cu­tion’s claim the gun was planted and wrote, “Fi­nally, the court ob­serves, based on its nearly 30 years on the bench, that an ur­ban heroin dealer not in pos­ses­sion of a firearm would be an anom­aly.” The com­ment sparked out­rage by pro­test­ers on the street and on so­cial me­dia.

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