Tampa Bay Times - - Nation & World -

The of­fi­cers were in­ves­ti­gat­ing what ap­peared to be a drug trans­ac­tion in the park­ing lot of a fast food restau­rant. The car sped away and a high-speed chase en­sued. Po­lice slammed their SUV into Smith’s car. Stock­ley then got out and fired five shots into Smith’s car, killing him. A hand­gun was found in the car after the shoot­ing.

Pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued the pres­ence of Stock­ley’s DNA — and ab­sence of Smith’s DNA — on the gun proved the gun must have been planted by the of­fi­cer. They also noted cu­ri­ous de­tails after the shoot­ing, in­clud­ing Stock­ley dig­ging into a bag in the back seat of the po­lice SUV be­fore re­turn­ing to Smith’s car.

But the de­fense coun­tered that Stock­ley heard his part­ner yell “gun” and saw the driver’s hand on a gun as the car sped by him. Stock­ley tes­ti­fied he did not draw his ser­vice weapon and fire un­til he saw Smith reach­ing around in­side the ve­hi­cle after it was stopped. He said Smith changed his de­meanor, sug­gest­ing he found the gun.

Stock­ley tes­ti­fied that after the shoot­ing he found the gun tucked down be­tween the seat and the cen­ter con­sole, and he ren­dered the gun safe by un­load­ing car­tridges from the cylin­der and then left the gun and car­tridges on the pas­sen­ger seat.

In his rul­ing, Wil­son wrote that “a fact is­sue that is cen­tral” to the case is whether Smith had the gun when he was shot. He found the state’s con­tention that the of­fi­cer planted the gun is not sup­ported by ev­i­dence.

As for Stock­ley dig­ging around in a bag in the po­lice SUV, Stock­ley tes­ti­fied that he re­trieved a “quick clot” pack, a med­i­cal item de­signed to stop se­ri­ous bleed­ing, and put it in his shirt pocket. In the po­lice video show­ing Stock­ley look­ing in the bag, a viewer can’t see what he’s do­ing or what he might have taken out of the bag.

The judge found the idea that Stock­ley took a gun from the po­lice SUV to Smith’s car not cred­i­ble. A full-sized re­volver was too large for the of­fi­cer to hide in his pants pock­ets and he was not wear­ing a jacket, the judge said. If the gun had been tucked into his belt, it would have been vis­i­ble on a by­stander’s video that showed Stock­ley walk­ing be­tween the po­lice car and Smith’s car, he found.

Wil­son also noted none of the of­fi­cers stand­ing next to the ve­hi­cle were called to tes­tify that Stock­ley planted a gun. And he re­counted wit­ness tes­ti­mony that the ab­sence of a per­son’s DNA on a gun does not mean that per­son did not touch the gun.

“Fi­nally, the Court ob­serves, based on its nearly thirty years on the bench, that an ur­ban heroin dealer not in pos­ses­sion of a firearm would be an anom­aly,” the judge wrote.

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