Protests Begin In St. Louis After An Ex-Cop Is Acquitted Of Murder In The 2011 Shooting Death Of A Black Man

Years before Michael Brown’s 2014 death in Ferguson, Missouri, St. Louis cop Jason Stockley became the subject of an investigation after the December 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. Stockley, who has since left the police force, was charged with first-degree murder following the death of Lamar, a black man, who he pursued and shot — “five times at close range” — after a high-speed chase over a suspected drug sale. On Friday, Stockley was found not guilty (after arguing that he acted in self-defense) in Smith’s death. Following the verdict, protesters took to the street and began blocking parts of downtown St. Louis.

The case, of course, is a controversial one, given the growing number of “not guilty” verdicts in similar cases of police shooting black men. As a matter of legal strategy, Stockley had waved his right to a jury trial, so the decision arrived solely by the hand of St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson. Within a 30-page document, Wilson wrote in part:

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

At major issue within the case was whether Stockley “reasonably” responded in self-defense, and he claimed to believe that Smith reached for a weapon. However, prosecutors in the case brought forth evidence that Stockley had “plant[ed] a .38-caliber revolver in Smith’s Buick after police pulled Smith’s body from the car.” Yet Wilson determined that Stockley acted in self-defense based upon the location of his wounds, which “could indicate that Smith was reaching for something to his right at the time the wounds occurred.”

Many are not convinced that Wilson’s ruling works justice, and St. Louis authorities are reportedly preparing for widespread chaos as protests begin to grow. At this time, there is no indication that the assembling crowds are anything but peaceful, but protesters have already (and purposefully) blocked an entrance to a busy highway, and law enforcement officers — on bicycles and in helicopters — are currently monitoring the situation.

This is a developing story, and we’ll bring you more updates as they arrive.

(Via St. Louis Post-Dispatch, CNN & VICE)