Po­lice, protesters clash in St. Louis af­ter ac­quit­tal of for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

ST. LOUIS: Po­lice fired tear gas and rub­ber bul­lets dur­ing clashes with protesters in St Louis early on Satur­day af­ter a white for­mer po­lice­man was ac­quit­ted of mur­der­ing a black sus­pect.

A peace­ful rally over Fri­day’s not guilty ver­dict turned vi­o­lent af­ter po­lice con­fronted a small group of demon­stra­tors - three years af­ter the shoot­ing of another black sus­pect in the nearby sub­urb of Fer­gu­son stirred na­tion­wide anger and de­bate.

Of­fi­cers fired tear gas as peo­ple broke win­dows at a library and two restau­rants and threw bricks and wa­ter bot­tles at of­fi­cers.

Protesters also threw rocks and paint at the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krew­son, said Act­ing Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Lawrence O’Toole. Nine city of­fi­cers and a state trooper were in­jured and at least 23 peo­ple were taken into cus­tody, he said.

For­mer city po­lice­man Jason Stock­ley, 36, was found not guilty of the first-de­gree mur­der of An­thony La­mar Smith, 24, shot to death on De­cem­ber 20, 2011.

Af­ter the rul­ing, around 600 protesters marched from the court­house through down­town St. Louis, chant­ing “No jus­tice, no peace” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! These killer cops have got to go!” Some held “Black Lives Mat­ter” signs.

“I’m sad, I’m hurt, I’m mad,” Rev­erend Clin­ton Stan­cil of the Way­man AME Church in St. Louis said by tele­phone.

“We haven’t made any progress since Fer­gu­son, that’s clear. Cops can still kill us with im­punity.”

Fer­gu­son be­came the fo­cal point of a na­tional de­bate on race re­la­tions af­ter white of­fi­cer Dar­ren Wilson shot dead black teenager Michael Brown on Au­gust 9, 2014. Protests and clashes broke out af­ter a grand jury cleared the of­fi­cer, giv­ing rise to the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment.

Af­ter Fri­day’s ver­dict, one group of demon­stra­tors tried to climb onto In­ter­state 40 but was blocked by po­lice.

Another group blocked an in­ter­sec­tion by sit­ting down in the street for six min­utes of si­lence.

Af­ter most protesters drifted away, a smaller group of peo­ple po­lice de­scribed as “ag­i­ta­tors” lin­gered on the streets in an up­scale neigh­bor­hood near the mayor’s house.

The group taunted of­fi­cers who ar­rived in riot gear by the bus­load.

“Re­ports of bricks thrown at po­lice. That’s not protest. That’s a crime. We stand be­hind our of­fi­cers. This vi­o­lence won’t be tol­er­ated,” Mis­souri Gover­nor Eric Gre­it­ens said on Twit­ter.

Smith was shot five times in his car af­ter try­ing to flee Stock­ley and his part­ner, fol­low­ing an al­leged drug deal, au­thor­i­ties said.

Prose­cu­tors said that dur­ing the pur­suit, Stock­ley could be heard say­ing on an in­ter­nal po­lice car video he was go­ing to kill Smith. At Stock­ley’s di­rec­tion, his part­ner, who was driv­ing, slammed the po­lice cruiser into Smith’s ve­hi­cle and they came to a stop.

Stock­ley then ap­proached Smith’s car and opened fire with his ser­vice weapon, court doc­u­ments said. The for­mer po­lice­man be­lieved Smith was armed, de­fence at­tor­neys said, and a gun was found in the car.

But prose­cu­tors ar­gued Stock­ley planted the weapon and that the gun had only Stock­ley’s DNA on it. Stock­ley’s at­tor­ney, Neil Brun­trager, said his client was re­lieved at the ver­dict.

“It’s been a long road for him,” Brun­trager said.

St. Louis pros­e­cu­tor Kimberly Gard­ner called on protesters to avoid vi­o­lence.

“I un­der­stand the ver­dict has cre­ated anger and frus­tra­tion for many in our com­mu­nity,” she told re­porters at the court­house.

Stock­ley waived his right to a jury trial, al­low­ing the judge to de­cide.

He left the St. Louis Metropoli­tan Po­lice Depart­ment in 2013 and was ar­rested last year. Smith’s fam­ily set­tled a wrong­ful death law­suit against the city for $900,000 in 2013, ac­cord­ing to Al Watkins, an at­tor­ney for Smith’s fi­ancée, Christina Wilson.

- Reuters

STAND­OFF: A pro­tester faces off with law en­force­ment of­fi­cials in the Cen­tral West End neigh­bUor­hood af­ter Jason Stock­ley, a for­mer St. Louis po­lice of­fi­cer, was ac­quit­ted of mur­der in the 2011 fa­tal shoot­ing of An­thony La­mar Smith, a black man sus­pected of deal­ing drugs, in St. Louis, Mis­souri, U.S. on Fri­day.

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