Protests erupt in St. Louis over ex-officer’s acquittal
After violent events overnight, others try calm disruption
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. Demonstrators protesting the acquittal of a white former police officer in the killing of a black man in 2011 marched through West County Mall on Saturday afternoon chanting “Black lives matter!” and “No justice, no peace!” After leaving West County, they moved to Chesterfield Mall and then the Taste of St. Louis, carrying the same message of protest.
The demonstrations in this St. Louis suburb followed a night of protests that at times turned violent. A number of businesses were vandalized, 11 police officers were injured, and 32 people were arrested.
A spokesperson for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that nine St. Louis officers, one Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper and one St. Louis County officer were hurt Friday night. One of the city officers was hit with a brick. O’Toole said the injuries to St. Louis police officers include a possible broken jaw
and a dislocated shoulder.
The band U2 canceled its Saturday night concert in St. Louis because the police department said it wouldn’t be able to provide its standard protection for the event, organizers said.
For weeks, activists had been threatening civil disobedience if Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer, were acquitted of murder for killing Anthony Lamar Smith following a high-speed chase.
Stockley was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in May 2016, about 41⁄ years after shooting 2 and killing Smith on Dec. 11, 2011. Stockley opted for a bench trial — without a jury — before veteran Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson.
On Friday, Wilson made his decision, finding Stockley not guilty on both counts.
At the trial, Stockley testified that he saw the 24-year-old Smith holding a silver revolver as he sped away at the start of the chase. He said when he shot Smith, he felt he was in imminent danger.
Prosecutors said Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting — Stockley’s DNA was on the weapon, but Smith’s wasn’t.
Dashcam video from Stockley’s police car captured him saying he was “going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it.” Less than a minute later, he shot Smith five times.
Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” uttered during a dangerous pursuit.
In his decision, Wilson wrote that the statement “can be ambiguous depending on the context.”
Wary of the protests that broke out in 2014 in nearby Ferguson over the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer, authorities took precautions in St. Louis. Barricades were erected around police headquarters and the courthouse, among other sites, in anticipation of the verdict.
Demonstrators went to the mall Saturday after gathering in Heman Park to discuss their next move.
“There’s only two things this system understands: money and eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth. The second, we’re not engaged in, so we have to affect this system economically. Today, we are going to shut down a mall.” Demonstrator Amir Bradley
“Economically, we’ve been excluded,” said one demonstrator, Amir Bradley. “There’s only two things this system understands: money and eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth. The second, we’re not engaged in, so we have to affect this system economically. Today, we are going to shut down a mall.”
In St. Louis, protests late Friday were mostly peaceful until demonstrators spattered red paint on St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home and broke a window, prompting riot police to lob tear gas to disperse crowds.
On Friday, after the verdict, Al Watkins, attorney for Smith’s fiancée and daughter, said the family is devastated and appalled by the judge’s ruling.
Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said she was disappointed by the judge’s decision because prosecutors presented sufficient evidence of guilt.
Protesters march through the streets of St. Louis on Friday following the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley, charged with firstdegree murder last year in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011.