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Ex-officer who fatally shot a Black driver found not guilty, protests erupt in St. Louis

KC Orcutt

 // Sep 16, 2017

Police and protesters clashed in St. Louis, Mo. early Saturday (Sept. 16) when chaos erupted following the news that white ex-police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted in the 2011 fatal shooting of a Black driver and suspect in an alleged drug deal, Anthony Lamar Smith.

As reported by CNN, after the verdict was publicized, protestors and activists gathered outside the courthouse, marching through the city's downtown areas late into the night, chanting "No justice, no peace" and calling for police resignations, economic boycott and social justice.

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The outrage in St. Louis was ignited following a judge finding the former police officer not guilty in the death of the 24-year-old, who was shot three years prior to the slaying of teenager Michael Brown in the neighboring town, Ferguson.

As reported, Stockley and his partner, Brian Bianchi, tried to stop Smith after witnessing a suspected drug transaction in a parking lot. Smith chose to flee the scene, with the officer firing several shots at his vehicle, claiming he feared for his life and the safety of others after his partner told him Smith was reaching for a weapon.

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After chasing Smith at speeds more than 80 mph, the police vehicle crashed into Smith's Buick. According to the criminal report, Smith was still alive after the car crash, with the two officers approaching his car with their weapons drawn. In the internal report, Stockley said he ordered Smith to show his hands, but believed the suspect was reaching for a handgun, resulting in Stockley firing five rounds into Smith's chest, with the action taking the suspect's life while he sat in the driver's seat.

Stockley then entered Smith's car "to locate the weapon and render it safe," with forensic analysis later revealing that Stockley's DNA was the only DNA present on the gun he said belonged to Smith. It was later discussed in the trial whether Smith was in possession of a firearm at the time of the shooting or not, with prosecutors arguing that the gun was planted by Stockley to justify the shooting.

Pat Washington // On Point! Communications

Additionally, the officer was carrying his department-issued handgun, along with his personal AK-47 pistol, the latter of which was against department policy to carry. Prosecutors argued Stockley intended to kill the suspect, with audio being cited from the internal police vehicle in which Stockley could be heard saying, "We're killing this motherf---er."

The judge, who made the final decision on Friday after Stockley waived his right to a jury trial, said of the audio, "people say all kinds of things in the heat of the moment or while in stressful situations."

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In 2013, the St. Louis police board settled a wrongful death suit with Smith's survivors for a reported $900,000.

While Stockley killed Smith years prior to the death of Brown sparking national outrage, then-St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce later charged the former officer with first-degree murder in May 2016, citing new evidence. Stockley, who left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in August 2013, was not originally prosecuted by state and federal authorities, with Ferguson's aftermath adding pressure to how authorities investigate, prosecute and overall handle officer-involved fatal shootings. His partner was not charged.

As reported, the recent protests following Stockley's acquittal began peacefully but later took a violent turn. Police claimed that demonstrators threw rocks and paint at the mayor's home, smashed the windshield of a police vehicle and damaged other public property, including the library and two restaurants.

After bricks and water bottles were reportedly thrown at police officers, the local law enforcement fired tear gas and rubber bullets as a way to disperse the crowd after the protests were considered an unlawful assembly. According to reports, nine city officers and a state trooper were injured, with at least 23 people being taken into custody.

"Reports of bricks thrown at police," Missouri Governor Eric Greitens said on Twitter. "That's not protest. That's a crime. We stand behind our officers. This violence won't be tolerated."

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According to reports, police arrived on the scene in riot gear by the busload.

"I'm sad, I'm hurt, I'm mad," Reverend Clinton Stancil of the Wayman AME Church in St. Louis shared with the Huffington Post. "We haven't made any progress since Ferguson, that's clear. Cops can still kill us with impunity."

Pat Washington // On Point! Communications

Additionally, U2 canceled their scheduled Saturday evening concert in St. Louis, citing concerns regarding fans safety. According to a joint statement between the rock group and Live Nation, there were concerns that there would not be enough security in the wake of the Jason Stockley verdict and protests.

Pat Washington // On Point! Communications

More on this story as it develops.

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