The city of St. Louis is bracing for impact. City officials are preparing for protests in the area that are expected to occur after the acquittal of Officer Jason Stockley in the case of the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith was formally announced.
Stockley is a former white officer of the St. Louis Metro Police force who was charged with murder after fatally shooting Smith—a black man—after a car chase in December of 2011. Stockley was also charged on planting a gun in the victim’s car to fabricate a “defense” for his case. Prosecutors argued that Stockley had a racial-bias towards Smith which caused him to act with violence.
The defense has quoted Stockley in saying things like, “going to kill this motherf–, don’t you know it,” and allegedly told his partner to purposely run into Smith’s car during the chase. Prosecution states that after apprehending Smith, Stockley approached the car and fired 5 fatal shots without provocation. Smith’s lawyers had dashboard video from the police car to document the shooting and support their argument. The team also had convincing evidence related to the planted gun—the only DNA found on the weapon belonged to the accused.
The defense’s case was solid –especially with DNA evidence—and supported their arguments with concrete proof. A guilty verdict seemed to be inevitable. Unfortunately, presiding Judge Timothy Wilson was not persuaded. In the acquittal announcement on Friday, Wilson (also a white male) explained that even after repeatedly reviewing the case, he did not see enough evidence presented to, beyond reasonable doubt, convict Officer Stockley.
This case is a small part of a pandemic of police brutality across the nation. Missouri alone has experienced this injustice many times. Similar to this verdict, no justice was served in the cases of tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014 and the acquittal of 3 officers involved in a deadly on-duty shooting this summer.
While St. Louis prepares for protests that could turn violent, city and state officials expressed their disgust. State representative Michael butler said that the outcome left him “appalled” and that this verdict is a “shot in the heart to the family.” He explained:
“This system and all the politicians calling for peace are ignoring the pain this verdict causes our communities. Anthony Lamar Smith is dead from a violent act and you want us to be peaceful? You want us to not feel anger? The very people paid to protect us are killing us, paid to make peace are perpetuating violence, and we are supposed to be peaceful?” he wrote. “We will be non-violent but we will not settle on peace. No justice. No peace.”
Mayor Lyda Krewson noted that this decision was “sobering” and pledged to “continue my work to create a more equitable community.”
This divisive decision and example of injustice, while a terrible reminder, has only inspired the community to continue efforts to expose this dynamic.