By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
ST. LOUIS, Missouri — On Friday, September 15, St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted white former police officer Jason Stockley charged with first-degree murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man.
In December 2011, Officer Stockley and his partner (who was not charged) engaged Mr. Smith in a high-speed car chase when he fled the scene of a suspected drug deal. The officers rammed Mr. Smith’s vehicle. Officer Stockley got out of the police SUV armed with his service revolver as well as an unauthorized AK-47, approached Mr. Smith’s car, and fired five shots into the car. Mr. Smith was killed as a result. Officer Stockley reported finding a handgun lodged between the center console and the passenger seat.
Prosecutors alleged the handgun was planted by Stockley after the shooting since it did not have Mr. Smith’s DNA on it, only Stockley’s. Dashcam footage also recorded Officer Stockley telling his partner that he was “going to kill this [redacted], don’t you know it” immediately prior to their ramming of Mr. Smith’s vehicle.
Stockley was charged in May 2016. He waived his right to a jury trial, opting instead for a bench trial where questions of both fact and law would be decided by the presiding judge.
Judge Wilson determined that the two points of contention alleged by the prosecution in the case were as follows:
- Whether Officer Stockley planted the gun found in Mr. Smith’s car.
- Whether Officer Stockley’s statement made prior to the end of the vehicle pursuit indicated premeditation.
Judge Wilson ruled that Officer Stockley’s comment lacked context and that there was no evidence that the handgun found in Mr. Smith’s car had been planted. “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.” Officer Stockley was found not guilty of Anthony Lamar Smith’s murder.
Protests around St. Louis began on Friday shortly after news of the acquittal, and continued throughout Saturday and well into Sunday afternoon.
Officer Stockley’s defense attorney, Neil Bruntrager, also represented Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and whose lack of indictment by grand jury sparked protests around the United States in 2014.
In 2015, The Guardian began an investigative project called “The Counted” to document the number of people killed by police in the United States. The database includes 1093 reports of people being killed by police in the US in 2016.
For more information, please see:
The Guardian – More protests expected over acquittal of white officer in police killing – 17 September 2017