Hundreds of police officers in full riot gear responded to the streets of downtown St. Louis after another day of peaceful protests over an ex-police officer’s acquittal in the death of a black man gave way to property damage and dangerous encounters with officers.
Police made dozens of arrests shortly before midnight when people ignored orders to disperse. More protests were expected starting Monday morning, with demonstrators planning to gather downtown. A judge ruled Friday that Jason Stockley, a 36-year-old who left the department and moved to Houston three years ago, was not guilty in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith. The ruling set off raucous protests throughout the weekend. Hundreds of people marched through downtown streets, the posh Central West End, and the trendy Delmar Loop area of nearby University City. Protesters also marched through two shopping malls in a wealthy area of St. Louis County.
Stockley shot Smith after Smith fled from Stockley and his partner on a high-speed chase as they tried to arrest him for a suspected drug deal. Stockley, 36, testified he felt endangered because he saw Smith holding a silver revolver when Smith backed his car toward the officers and sped away. Prosecutors said Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting. The officer’s DNA was on the weapon but Smith’s wasn’t. Dashcam video from Stockley’s cruiser recorded him saying he was “going to kill this (expletive).” Less than a minute later, he shot Smith five times.
Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” during a dangerous pursuit. St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson, who said prosecutors didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stockley murdered Smith, said the statement could be ambiguous.