St. Louis protests against officer’s acquittal to continue
ST. LOUIS » Hundreds of people protesting the acquittal of a white former St. Louis police officer in the fatal shooting of black man following a high-speed chase marched for hours in mostly peaceful demonstrations, until a broken window at the mayor’s home and escalating tensions led riot-gear-clad officers to lob tear gas to disperse the crowds.
Activists had for weeks threatened civil disobedience if Jason Stockley were not convicted in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith, stirring fears of civil unrest and the erecting of barricades around police headquarters, the courthouse where the trial was held and other potential protest sites.
A racially diverse crowd of protesters — some carrying weapons, as allowed by state law, and others toting children and waving posters — took to the streets within hours of Friday’s decision.
More than 20 arrests were made by early evening, and some protesters were peppersprayed during confrontations with authorities. St. Louis police reported that 10 officers had suffered injuries by the end of the night, including a broken jaw and dislocated shoulder, and some journalists reported being the target of threats from demonstrators.
Activists said they would meet again Saturday to plan further demonstrations.
Stockley, who was charged with first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting, had insisted he saw the 24-year-old Smith holding a gun and felt he was in imminent danger. Prosecutors said the officer planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting.
In an interview with the St. Louis PostDispatch, Stockley said he understands how video of the shooting looks bad, but that he did nothing wrong.
“I can feel for and I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame, but I’m just not the guy,” he said.
Stockley, 36, requested his case be decided by a judge instead of a jury, an option open to any defendant.
“This court, in conscience, cannot say that the State has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt or that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense,” St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson wrote in his decision.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner acknowledged the difficulty of winning police shooting cases but said prosecutors believe they proved that Stockley intended to kill Smith.