Officer cleared of US ‘murder’
A Missouri judge has found a white former St Louis police officer not guilty of murder in the shooting death of a black man, stirring feelings of anger and frustration in the black community.
The National Guard was placed on standby by Missouri Governor Eric Greitens with officials fearing the verdict could set off violent protests, as in similar incidents involving police and minorities around the US in recent years.
Jason Stockley, 36, was acquitted of first-degree murder for killing Anthony Lamar Smith, 24. Stockley, who was arrested in May 2016 and accused of planting a gun in Smith’s car, testified he acted in self defence.
Prosecutors alleged that Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after he shot him. The gun found in Smith’s car had the officer’s DNA on it, but not his.
St Louis and state officials were braced for violent protests and racial tensions similar to those that followed the 2014 fatal shooting by police of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, near St Louis.
“I’m sad, I’m hurt, I’m mad. But this was expected. We haven’t made any progress since Ferguson, that’s clear. Cops can still kill us with impunity,” said Reverend Clinton Stancil of the Wayman AME Church.
St Louis mayor Lyda Krewson appealed for calm.
“Frustration, anger, hurt, pain, hope and love all intermingle,” she said in a statement. I encourage St Louisans to show each other compassion.”
Judge Timothy Wilson’s highly anticipated ruling was announced more than five weeks after the bench trial ended.
“This court, as a trier of fact, is simply not firmly convinced of defendant’s guilt,” the judge wrote in his ruling.