Heated Protests Follow Stockley Acquittal

By Currier, Joel; Byers, Christine | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 16, 2017 | Go to article overview

Heated Protests Follow Stockley Acquittal


Currier, Joel, Byers, Christine, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


ST. LOUIS * Former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty Friday of murdering a man while on duty, sparking hours of angry protests that continued overnight.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson's highly anticipated verdict found the white former St. Louis police officer not guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the December 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black drug suspect, after a high-speed pursuit and crash.

Protesters began gathering downtown immediately after the verdict was announced Friday morning. The demonstrations were largely peaceful at first, but as the night went on, protesters seriously injured two police officers and vandalized Central West End buildings, including the home of the city mayor.

Early Friday, protesters tried to block officers from traveling on Tucker Boulevard between Clark Avenue and Spruce Street. Police used pepper spray to clear the roadway as protesters hollered, chanted and held up signs.

"My goal is to resist the power of the state," said the Rev. Renita Lamkin Green, pastor of St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cape Girardeau, after standing in front of the line of police. "The power of the people is greater than the power over the people."

About 5:30 p.m., police said the downtown protests were no longer considered peaceful, and they asked people to leave.

Protesters soon moved to the Central West End, where more than 1,000 marched on Euclid Avenue and on Kingshighway near Highway 40 (Interstate 64). Later Friday night, protesters gathered outside the home of Mayor Lyda Krewson in the Central West End, breaking windows. Krewson did not appear to be home.

Two officers were hit by bricks thrown by protesters in the area and were taken to hospitals, police said. At least six other officers sustained minor injuries throughout the day, and more than a dozen people were arrested, police said.

Gov. Eric Greitens praised law enforcement and peaceful protesters, but warned: "Violence will not be tolerated."

"Unfortunately, we did have some people who decided to engage in acts of violence," he said after meeting law enforcement officials in St. Louis. "Assaulting a law enforcement officer is not a peaceful protest. Breaking windows is not a peaceful protest. Destroying and vandalizing police cars is not free speech, and we are not going to tolerate it in the state of Missouri."

Activists, with support from some of the city's black clergy, had pledged disruptive protests ahead of Wilson's verdict. Wilson addressed such statements in his order:

"A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor or fear of criticism."

Damone Smith, 52, an electrician headed to work, was among the motorists being rerouted from the protest area.

"I think the verdict is disgusting," said Smith, who is black. "I'm proud of these people protesting. If you look like me, then you feel like there is no other way to express yourself in the face of this kind of verdict. Time and time again, African-American men are killed by police and nobody is held accountable."

In an exclusive interview with the Post-Dispatch, Stockley said: "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."

RULING EXPLAINED

The judge explained his rationale for the verdict in a 30-page document filed about 8:30 a.m. Friday.

"This court, as the trier of fact, is simply not firmly convinced of defendant's guilt. Agonizingly, this court has pored over the evidence again and again. This court, in conscience, cannot say that the state has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt or that the defendant did not act in self-defense."

Because the state failed to prove Stockley did not act in self-defense, Wilson wrote that he could not address lesser charges of homicide or manslaughter. …

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